Using caramel and marshmallows, FFA parliamentarian Devin Soyez recently caged two masked bandits running amuck in Marion’s FFA Community Garden near Warriors Stadium.
Devin, 15, joined gardeners Gordon Malin and Pam Byers, and other FFA students, including FFA project liaison Kaitlyn Goebel in harvesting produce a couple weeks ago.
As harvesters waded into rows of corn, it became apparent something was amiss.
Ears of corn were lying on the ground, and many stalks were damaged.
“I suspected we probably had a family of raccoons,” Malin said. “They reach up, grab an ear, break it off, then open it up and eat the sweet corn. Sometimes it gets half eaten but it is a loss.
“In my experience, the only way to stop them is to poison them or trap them.”
Devin volunteered to trap the feral perpetrators.
“I’ve been trapped beavers, coons, possums, and skunks for about the past four years,” he said. “I have custom bait that I make and use to catch coons.”
Devin prepared his live traps with caramel syrup and marshmallows, then camouflaged them in deep brush near where he thought raccoons would feel protected.
“I set out three traps,” he said. “I caught the first one the first night and got the second one on the second night.”
The first was a well-fed male.
“He must have found some trouble before because he was missing his tail,” Devin said. “The second was a female. I didn’t weigh them but think they were both about 13 pounds each.”
Grass around the edge of the cage was pulled up and shredded.
“Usually they freak out right away and try to get out,” he said, “But they had been there a while, so each was curled up and asleep when I found them.”
Devin released the raccoons in the country, near a river, so they would have a source of food and water, but not before they told him what they thought of the situation.
“They didn’t like it,” he said. “They hissed at me. It sounds like a cat’s hiss only deeper.”
Malin said more raccoons, perhaps the offspring of the two Devin caught have been noted.
“We were out there Thursday and saw some more damage,” he said. “We had 12 rows planted in succession. I’d say there was probably 60 percent damage to the crop.”
A water tank and irrigation piping have been installed.
Despite the raccoons’ corn raid, Malin termed the garden “highly successful.”
Kaitlyn also was upbeat.
“We’ve had some good community input and we harvested more produce that I expected we would,” she said.
Over the last several weeks, produce from the garden that the including corn, potatoes, summer squash, beets, onions, and carrots from the garden have been donated to Marion County Food Bank and Resource Center.
“It makes me feel like I am making a difference for some families in the area,” Kaitlyn said. “Some don’t have the income to afford fresh, healthy produce, and it warms my heart to know that I am helping in some way.”