As I pulled up to the house at about 6:30 this evening, I spotted an animal running erratically along the shoulder of the road about 50 feet or so ahead. It was roughly the size of a large cat, but I'd never seen one of our barn cats that far off our property --- and certainly not running along the side of the road in this manner. Not able to get a better look at the animal's markings, I dismissed it and turned into the driveway.
As Mrs Yeoman Farmer used a hose to water newly-planted bushes in the front yard, I went inside and began cooking dinner. A moment later, she came running into the house with an urgent request: "Get your gun! There is a sick, rabid-looking raccoon wandering around in the street."
So that was it. No wonder I hadn't been able to recognize the animal at first --- raccoons are never out in the daytime, and they certainly never run around like this one was. Unless, of course, they're rapid.
I dashed upstairs, grabbed the 12-gauge pump shotgun we use for home defense, and then hurried out to the road. The raccoon had now crossed to our side of the street, and was looking as disoriented as ever. Two cars were coming, so I stood just off the road. Strange as I must have looked, standing there holding a large shotgun, neither car so much as slowed down to get a better look at me. Once both had passed, I raised the shotgun to my shoulder, lined the coon up, and blasted.
Because rabid animals are known to charge and attack, I hadn't wanted to get too close to my target. As a result, I didn't score a direct hit with enough of my nine pieces of 00 buckshot to kill the coon. He was definitely wounded, but still on his feet.
I racked another shell into the chamber, and took a couple of steps toward him before firing again. This blast took him off his feet. As he rolled around on the shoulder of the road, I knew he'd never survive these wounds --- but I wanted him all the way dead. Now.
Except there was a small problem: another car was coming. I stepped back from the road, sheepishly holding the shotgun in my arms, wondering if the driver was at all curious as to what I was doing. If he was, he didn't indicate it by slowing down. Once he was safely past, I racked a third shell and again approached the coon. As he was now unable to charge me, I got to within about ten feet before letting go with my final shot --- and this one left no doubt.
MYF and I were both concerned about leaving a dead rabid coon on the side of the road, especially with the propensity our dogs and cats have for poking around and exploring. And what would happen if some scavenger cleaned up this carcass? Could the disease spread wider into the local wildlife population? Plus, we weren't sure if the game department needed to be informed about the situation.
I made a quick call to the local Department of Natural Resources, and the woman I spoke with assured me that there was no need for them to catalog the kill. Coons are terrible spreaders of disease, she said, and I shouldn't hesitate to dispatch them any time they come on our property. As for this one, she told me, I could either bury it or carefully dispose of it in the trash. I chose the latter. After donning latex gloves, I dropped the carcass into a large paper feed bag and then secured it in the trash can. And then washed my hands thoroughly.
What I still can't get over is how totally nonplussed the drivers were as they went past me. As one who grew up in a quiet Seattle subdivision, and lived in fairly densely populated neighborhoods for most of my adult life, I can imagine the utter panic (and calls to the police) that would have ensued if I had walked any of those streets with a 12-gauge pump shotgun over my shoulder.
It really is different out here. And I can't imagine living anywhere else.