It's a wild life here, but animal traps should be used with care

One Friday my neighbor called to ask if I’d put out a chipmunk trap. No, although chipmunks are all over the place. We once had a cat named Frizzy that left dead chipmunks around. I would put them in an old cat-food bag and stick them in the freezer until trash day. No point in leaving them around to smell.

Well, said my neighbor, there’s a skunk caught in a trap near my fence. She had called the city to no avail. Since her husband and grown son were dealing with it, I put it out of my mind until I went to bed that night. My bedroom smelled as though a skunk was under the bed. I would check the foundation Saturday morning.

I walked around with a hoe and a long stick. A black-and-white tail was sticking out of a hole between two sets of brick steps. There were flies around, so I knew it was dead. Part of my youth was spent on a farm, so I put on the gloves and tripled-bagged Mr. Skunk. Then I saw some black plastic; two pieces of it. So that was the trap. I put it in the bag with the skunk.

The next weekend our current cat set up a howl in the kitchen. By the time I got there, I saw a tail disappearing into the basement. Then a raccoon face peeked out of the basement. Great.

I put on the hiking boots, got the gloves and took a broom to get it out of the basement. It was hiding, so I banged on the old metal coal hopper. Nothing.

I went upstairs and called for backup. Another neighbor came over; both our husbands were unavailable. She saw my garb and asked if I’d thought of calling the fire department. I pointed to myself and said, “Farmer. We don’t call a fireman to get a raccoon out of a basement.” If the city wouldn’t help with a skunk caught in a trap, I doubted the fire department would send anyone anyway.

I blockaded the kitchen and created a path directly from the basement to the top of the steps and into the backyard. Then I went back to the book I’d been reading when this whole hoohah started. When I decided to go to bed, I shut the door to the outside; I didn’t want the whole raccoon family in the basement. I set up a test by putting some cat food in the laundry room.

It was untouched the next morning, so I concluded the raccoon had escaped before I shut the outside door the night before. Finally I got around to mopping the paw prints off the kitchen floor. It looked good enough that I thought about inviting my neighbors over to admire it. We could have a glass of wine and toast the wildlife in Cleveland Heights.

Raccoons and skunks are a nuisance. But there’s a serious side to someone putting out a trap that doesn’t stay on that person’s property. Suppose a toddler wandered into such a trap? Suppose a pet got caught in the trap? I checked to be sure the city no longer has an animal control officer. We don’t, although the police will respond to a call about a loose dog. With all the wildlife roaming this community, should we reconsider an animal control officer?

I checked city ordinances to see if there was any mention of animal traps. There were a number of references to plumbing traps, but the only relevant ordinance I found was:


   (a)   Except as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter, no person shall hunt, kill or attempt to kill any animals within the City.

   (b)   Whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree.

I doubt that I’ll ever know who set that trap, but it makes me nervous to know that someone in my neighborhood would set out a dangerous trap that could migrate from the original yard.

Anne McFarland

Anne McFarland has lived in Cleveland Heights for almost 40 years. She is a lawyer, a librarian and a writer. She is active as a Guardian ad Litem in the Juvenile Court of Cuyahoga County and serves on the Heights Youth Club Board of Directors.

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Volume 7, Issue 8, Posted 11:30 AM, 07.31.2014