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What S That Sound Outside
What's That Sound Outside?

How would you like to make $100,000 a year by only working thirty hours a week? Just imagine being able to show up at your job around nine o'clock in the morning without any boss getting mad at you for being late. While picking up the keys to your brand new, company truck, you check your messages in order to see what work needs to be done during the day. You head out and make your rounds to the customers that have requested your services, and then return to the office at three ‘o clock in the afternoon to pick up your personal vehicle. The rest of the afternoon you are free to spend time with your family, and to complete some odd chores around the house. Many Americans believe that this scenario is too good to be a reality, and that is not possible. However, according to the outdoor magazine Field and Stream, and increasing amount of blue collar workers are leaving their current careers to pursue the American dream of earning a higher income by doing a smaller amount of labor. How are they accomplishing this unimaginable task? They are trapping nuisance racoons. "We've got guys out there making in excess of $100,000 a year nuisance trapping," declares Steve Greene of the National Trapping Association(qtd. in Field and Stream 8).

The racoon has become its own industry over the past four years in the state of Virginia, but the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries(VDGIF) has repetitively denied the appeal of both coonhunters and the general public for a continual chasing season. As it stands at the

present moment, racoons can only be chased from August 1 to May 31. During that chasing season, only two racoons can be harvested per hunting party each night(Hunting & Trapping in Virginia 62).With these current game laws in effect, it is easy to see why the racoon population has risen so dramatically; and why they are considered nuisance animals. Drastic measures need to be implemented in order to regain control over these animals before they become unmanageable. It is imperative that the state of Virginia should abandon their old laws regarding racoons and adopt a year round chasing season with a bag limit of five racoons per hunting party each night.

For nearly eight years, coonhunters have been requesting a twelve month chasing season for the one purpose of training their hounds. During the months of June and July, no coonhound can be released from its kennel without the risk of the owner being ticketed. Unfortunately, these dogs have to be trained and conditioned all year long in order for them to perform well when the hunting season does start. Living a sedentary lifestyle in an eight foot by twelve foot kennel for two months is not going to keep a dog fit and trim. Many coonhunters also competition hunt in UKC licensed night hunts against guys from surrounding states. This puts Virginia coonhunters at a serious disadvantage because every other mid-Atlantic state has a year round chasing season for the training of hounds. The majority of the competition winners come from North Carolina, which has the least restrictive game laws in the country(Massey).

Not only would adopting a year round chasing season enable coonhunters to continually train their hounds, but it would also eliminate the overtime hours that Virginia game wardens have to work in order to police hunters. During June and July, game wardens spend the majority of their

time checking fishing licences on area lakes. Instead of being able to go home at sundown, many wardens are forced to work another eight hour shift to ensure that coonhounds are not trailing racoons around in the woods. The amount of time and money the state pays for this service is much greater than the amount of money they collect from the ticketing of a few illegal hunters.

The ability to train dogs and saving tax payer's money are not the only beneficial reasons for extending the racoon chase season by two months. Controlling the racoon population and decreasing the number of nuisance calls are also beneficial reasons. Whenever any population of animal becomes too great, diseases begin to crop up and spread quickly within those animals. It is estimated "[...]that thirty percent to fifty percent of all racoons east of Ohio, from Maine to Florida, are infected with rabies"(Ordway 980). The tremendous overgrowth in population has facilitated this outrageously high number of rabies encounters. Other diseases that are associated with racoons are Parvo, Distemper, and Brain Worms. By having a year round chase season, the population of racoons could be brought back to a manageable number to aid in eliminating the rabies virus and these other atrocious diseases. Nuisance calls to state game officials would also be lowered if the chasing season was extended. With the chance for coonhunters to decrease the number of racoons, the population would decline and fewer racoons would have the chance to rummage through people's garbage.

Bob Rose, a Bedford County resident, give a perfect account of the nuisance these animals have become.

"I woke up one morning around two-thirty in the morning to the sound of my trash cans rolling down the driveway. Since I live out here in the country, I wasn't sure what was

outside. I honestly thought it was somebody going through my trash or trying to break in. I grabbed my shotgun from the gun cabinet and loaded it up. As I walked outside with my

flashlight and gun in hand, all I saw was the ring tails and eyes of ‘coons running back into the woods. It's really become aggravating."

Even though there are numerous advantages to extending the racoon chasing season, some people still advocate that the extension is not needed. Many animal rights activists proclaim that if a year long chase season is adopted the population of racoons would be decreased so much that they would run the risk of becoming endangered. Common sense thinking would lead you to believe their reasoning, but by looking at the evidence it is clear to see that the opposite is happening. There are at least fifteen times more racoons in North America now than in the 1930s(Ordway 110). Before the state of South Carolina adopted a twelve month chasing season they ordered the state game biologist to conduct an extensive study on their racoon population before and after a trial run of the program. The results were staggering. Even though the racoons were being hunted all year, their overall population had increased by four hundred percent. This percentage has not been the exception to the rule either. In states such as Ohio and Minnesota, racoon populations have increased seven hundred to eight hundred percent. If these population growths are not dealt with swiftly, Americans could find themselves in a very compromising position.

According to doctors, Rabies shots are not a very pleasant experience to go through; neither is cleaning up wet trash off your lawn at eight o'clock in the morning. Unfortunately, without an extended

chasing season, this could become an everyday occupance. Even though animal activists and other

opponents do not agree with the proposed plan, the racoon chase season should be change into a year

long event. No matter how cute and cuddly they may seem, racoons are quickly becoming a problem that

most of us will have to deal with. You can either contribute to paying some guy $100,000 a year to take care of the problem; or you can let a coonhound take care of it for free.

Hunting & Trapping in Virginia. New York: Leonard Lee III, 1999.

Maisie, James. Personal Interview. 11 Feb. 2000.

McCombie, Brian. "Those Dirty Racoons." Field & Stream Dec. 1999: 8.

Ordway, Bruce. "Racoon Diseases and Parasites." Coonhound Bloodlines Jan. 2000: 98-99.

Ordway, Bruce. "Racoon Population." Coonhound Bloodlines Dec. 1999:110-111.

Rose, Bob. Personal Interview. 10 Feb. 2000.
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