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:

505.12  HUNTING OR KILLING ANIMALS PROHIBITED.

   (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