October 10, 2016

Oct 10 – Thanksgiving Monday


It’s Thanksgiving day and the weather is perfect. I’ve been sitting by the fire all day so far and it doesn’t look like that’ll change any time soon.  It’s already after 3:00pm and Wendi is busy in the kitchen preparing our Thanksgiving dinner — reason enough to be thankful, right there!

If there’s a downside to this job it’s being away from family on days like today.  Granted, we are usually away from family anyway but at least we would normally be able phone or Facetime with the girls or Wendi’s Mom, not this time.  The other downside is being away from Cosmic Debris.  It’s good that we have our friend Pat taking care of a few things on her while we’re gone — at least there’s some progress being made.  Pat is good with electrical work so I’ve hired him to take care of the stray current issue I’ve been working on and a few other things electrical.

Tuesday — Today is the first day in my life that I’ve gone without eating something.  I had two cups of coffee this morning for breakfast and two smoothies — one for lunch and one for supper. I don’t know what was in them but they were good.  They were green.  Wendi made them…  I trust her…  I think.

All I know is that I have to get rid of these extra pounds I’ve collected.

So it’s Saturday now and the last time I had solid food was Tuesday at dinner time — around 7:00 pm.  I’ve lost about four pounds and I’ve been surviving on the fruit and vegetable smoothies that Wendi has been making.  Yesterday, I felt a little woozy for a while but after having a smoothy it subsided.   The funny thing is that last night we got into the rum and I had more than just a few drinks and it wasn’t a problem.  This morning I feel good.  Not hungover or even groggy.  Not hungry or nauseous and no heartburn either.

Warning!  The following story contains violence!  An animal has been harmed! 

Wendi and I are both very much “animal lovers” and have a deep respect for nature and all it’s creatures.  However, we also understand that even humans, in spite of our tendency to view ourselves as outside the animal kingdom, are a part of both that AND the food chain and that out here, any threat to our food supply is a real life issue.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the raccoon is not indigenous to Haida Gwaii and since its introduction here, on the islands where it exists, it has had a devastating effect on the populations of several seabirds, including the endangered Ancient Murrelet — http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/ce18harfenist.pdf


The heavy early morning dew covered the large deck that graces the front side of the Outpost lodge.  Wendi, clad in a heavy housecoat and enjoying her morning coffee, stood behind the expanse of windows as she watched the ocean swells crash onto the distant rocks of Solide Island.  Her gaze fell to the surface of the deck in front of her.  “Tracks… there are tracks on the deck and I don’t think they belong to the cat!”, she shouted.  I rose from my chair by the fireplace and we went out to investigate.  “Those are raccoon tracks”, she exclaimed, “definitely not cat”!

I returned to my chair to consider this new development.  This was not really a surprise to either me or Wendi. After all, this is the West coast and raccoons are common and well known to take up residents around people — neither is it unimportant though.

The Outpost is a remote lodge on the West coast of Haida Gwaii.  The nearest logging road is ten  miles away, as the crow flies, and then another thirty-plus miles to Masset and again, as the crow flies.  There are no roads from that closest logging road that connect to Masset.  Access to The Outpost is by water or air only and from this point in time forward through winter, those expensive travel options are complicated further by weather.  In order to have care-takers here through the off-season, the owners have stocked the basement with enough food to last the two of us the full nine months of our term.  We are mid way through the second month and cannot and will not share our food with our visitor or allow him to contaminate any of it.

The construction of the foundation beneath the lodge is not of concrete walls and a concrete slab.  It is post and beam with framed pony walls and sheets of chip board covering most of the dirt floor.  There are several places where critters can, will and do come and go as they please.  Up until now, the only critters we’ve been aware of are mice.  Others of concern are rats (bilge rat) and raccoon (scurvy dog).

Food security is an obvious concern and the owners have done their best to protect the stores in an unsecured building by storing them in plastic tubs, bins and freezers.  Canned goods are on shelves and unfortunately, so are some dry goods that raccoons would find delightful, I’m sure.  Given time, I’m sure a raccoon could even find its way into the plastic tubs and bins as well.


Once we realized we were getting these midnight visits from this masked bandito, Wendi began to monitor the situation with the food and the cat.

Ingram, who lives in the basement, is our “front line, boots on the ground” defender of our stores.  “Ingwie” is a champion mouser and decorated soldier but is no match for a coon.

Wendi normally feeds the Ingster outside the laundry room door on the deck.  At about the same time as the tracks started to show up, Stinkweed’s dish started to get cleaned up much more thoroughly than before.  It would seem that this bandito, “Bandito Benito”  is partial to cat food!

During that first week I started researching various methods of trapping raccoons and planning a homemade trap.

Of course there are all kinds of people on the internet who are eager to tell you how you can go down to your local hardware store and pick yourself up a live coon trap made by Havahart but that does us no good.  I need a trap that I can make out of things that I have at hand and furthermore, we don’t want a lethal trap because we don’t want to kill Stinky.

Thank goodness for our good old fashioned redneck friends to the south of us.  I found a couple of forums devoted to off grid living, where I found threads discussing some homemade traps and a couple of YouTube videos demonstrating how to make them.

I have decided not to use the ones recommended by the hillbillies, although we will take their advice and use marshmallows as bait.  Instead of their rather painful looking traps, we decided to use a crab trap and we decided t’do it t’day!

The final push to action came last night, whilst we were swillin’ grog, burnin’ hemp sticks and playin’ billiards.

As I recall — Just as Wendi was about to unleash the fury of yet another miscue, she caught something move out of the corner of her good eye.  She turned her attention toward the deck just outside the patio doors.  Bandito Benito was standing there in the light cast from the pool table lamps.  As the sound of flamenco guitars wafted through the night air, he seemed inquisitive as he  gazed through the glass and his bandit mask.  I sat motionless, watching only him.

Wendi, swiftly and ever so quietly moved from the far end of the pool table to the kitchen.  Her path, on the opposite side of the pool table from Benito, took her past the six-by-six foot sliding glass doors, in plain view of him and past me.  I watched him the whole time as she moved and he did not react to her movements at all.  Once she was in the kitchen and out of sight however, he heard her close the fridge door and with a quick and graceful about face, he was gone.

Now we have an advantage!  We have observed the bandit on the prowl and we have been witness to his brazenness. We know he is short-sighted and cannot see us through the glass.

Up until then we had been considering traps with an automatic trip mechanism but ultimately we decided that since we have an idea of when he’s likely to be around again, we’ll spring the surprise on him personally.  The advantages are: 1) Less stress to Benito than if we were to leave him languishing in his death row cell overnight; 2) Less chance of escape if he’s dealt with immediately; 3) No danger of harm to Ingwie; 4) It’ll be fun for the entire family!


So today we reinforced a crab trap with zip ties and zip-tied all the doors closed.
We opened up one side to act as a gate.  We led a trip line from either side of the gate, woven through the top to the back of the trap, up the wall and through the bathroom window above.  We attached a small length of 3/8 inch rope to the trap and used a nylon ratchet strap to secure the trap to the deck. We put a few zip ties within reach and at the ready when needed and readied a handheld radio and a GoPro camera.  We deployed a handheld spotlight along with the radio, two gaff hooks by the trap and a five pound “cannonball” down-rigger weight down at the dock.

The plan:  When Bandito Benito comes along, we’ll be there playing pool, just like the night before – I think we’ll abstain from the treats this time though.  Wendi will head for the bathroom and I’ll don the GoPro and get in position to view the trap.  Once Benito is comfortably inside the trap and enjoying his dinner and I see Wendi is in position, I’ll key the mic on the radio to signal Wendi to pull.  Wendi pulls the trip line, closing the trap — I run out and slam a milk crate up against it, further securing it — Wendi comes out and we zip-tie the trap shut — we undo the ratchet strap and pick up the trap using the two gaff hooks — We carry it down to the dock and I tie the down-rigger weight to the trap and Wendi cleats off the trip line to a dock cleat.  The only thing left to do is to lower the cage into the water sending this scurvy dog, Bandito Benito to Davy Jones’ Locker.  Argh!

And so we waited…

We were surprised with activity early in the evening.  At about 9:30 Wendi looked out the patio doors at the trap and saw that the Bandito had already been there.  The marshmallows were gone but the cat food remained.  She went down to the basement to get more marshmallows.  A few minutes later she returned and said, “The Bandito is down stairs right now, eating Stinkweed’s food and he just looked at me and kept eating.”.  I asked her if she got the marshmallows and she said she couldn’t, because that’s where he is and asked me to go back down with her.  We went down and sure enough, he was still chowing down on Stinky’s food and again, he just looked up at us and then continued eating.  We turned away and as we noisily walked across the creaky floor, he spooked and ducked away for cover.  We went back to watch him exit the basement through a void at the bottom of the wall.

Wendi grabbed a bag of marshmallows and some cat food and we went back up and restocked the trap with fresh bait.  We played a game of pool and then hung out in that area so we could keep a closer watch on the trap.  It wasn’t long before the bandito returned.  Wendi spotted him and alerted me.  We moved into our respective positions and got ready.  Just as in the rehearsal we had earlier, it went off without a hitch and at 10:31pm, on October the 15th, 2016, under a Hunter’s Moon, Bandito Benito was gently lowered into his watery grave amid an incoming tide.

Once we knew we’d be trapping a coon, I asked a friend if he would want us to save the hide for him and he said yes, so shortly after the deed was done, we started the skinning process.   Afterwards we placed his naked carcass in a milk crate and lowered him back into the water where he can repent his sins and give life to the sea from where his kind has taken so much.

While Wendi was skinning the scoundrel with a dull knife I took a walk back to the lodge to look for a sharper knife and as I approached the lodge I saw two eyes shining brightly at me from beneath the deck.  I stopped dead in my tracks.  So did the eyes.  We stared at each other for a moment.  I thought to myself, “Oh that’s just gotta be Ingwie.”, and took a couple of steps forward.  Then it turned sideways to me and I saw it.  It was not Ingram, it was a raccoon and it looked larger than the one we just killed.  Was that Bandito Benito I just saw?  Is he the gang leader and if so, how big is this gang and who was that, that we just murdered?

I returned to the OR to help Wendi and told her the news.  As we finished stripping the masked bandito of his pelt, we could hear the chatter of a nearby ‘coon in the night.

◊ Trap secured & Baited √
◊ Trip line run through window √
◊ Extra zip ties on hand √
◊ Cannonball on dock √
◊ Radio charged √
◊ Gopro charged √

And we wait…

While the act of catching the raccoon was actually fun, the killing was not so much.  If there were another option, we’d have gladly done something else.

R.I.P. Bandito Benito (or whoever you were).

Thanks for reading folks, hope you enjoyed it.  Cheers!

© 2016 Ron Morrison

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