"We might have a little problem," the agent said looking up at me as he showed me the belly of the raccoon. "This isn't a male racoon. It's a really big female raccoon and it's possible she was hiding in your roof because she was protecting some kits."
"Are you telling me what I think you are telling me?" I asked and then continued, "Did you just kill a raccoon and her babies are still hiding up in my roof?" This is horrible on so many levels. Didn't he notice any tiny raccoon eyes or baby raccoon noises? I thought to myself as I felt the pit in my stomach grow.
"I don't know yet," the agent snapped, "We'll have to go back on the roof and see if there are any kits hidden in that roof space."
Did you catch that? Did you notice what happened right there? Did you recognize how he suddenly pluralized the necessary investigation. The agent was departing from the solo job he was asked to perform and declaring that this was going to require a corporate solution. We were needing to go back on the roof.
"Follow me. Let's go," he said and started climbing back up the ladder.
I just looked at my dad and shook my head in disbelief. Things were suddenly much worse than I expected. Speechless, I followed "Six Shooter McGee" back to the roof.
I watched as he flattened himself again on the shingles and grabbed his flashlight and peered deeply into the space.
"Damn it. Damn it. Damn it," I could hear him say. He really didn't need to say anything else. I knew already that we were going to burn in hell for what this agent had done in the blink of an eye with his jittery trigger finger.
"How many are in there?," I asked, wiping the sweat from my head and feeling sick to my stomach.
He pulled himself back out of the hole and sat on the roof. "At least four of them by my count. Do you want to have a look and see if you count the same?"
I didn't really want to look. I felt that if I grabbed his flashlight, it committed me to even more involvement in this massacre. Suddenly, I was thinking in fast-forward motion. What about fingerprints? Will they be able to get my fingerprints off the flashlight? Wait a minute, I thought. This is a state agent. He is employed by a govenment agency. He is licensed to do this. What did I have to worry about? He's the one that assasinated a raccoon. I was just an innocent home owner asking for help. I grabbed his flashlight and peered down into the hole. Sure enough. Four sets of tiny raccoon eyes lit up in the dark roof space. Not knowing what this guy had planned, I realized that I should probably do everything I could to help save these little guys.
"What are you going to do?," I asked.
"Well, here is what WE are going to do. First, YOU are going to go down and get my snare pole for me and then WE will pull them out one at a time," he said.
The last time I checked, I was not wearing a uniform or a badge. I'm not sure why it was necessary for him to continue to emphasize what WE were going to do. The afternoon sun was clearly affecting this guy. But, to prevent the unnecessary extermination of any more baby raccoons, I decided that I would help this crazy agent with his dilemma and headed back down the ladder to get his pole.
GET A CRATE
"Do you have an animal carrier?," he shouted, as I started down the side of my house.
"What do you mean, do I have an animal carrier?" I responded with a confused look on my face.
"Well," he said with an annoyed voice. "We are going to need to put these into a carrier or a crate or a heavy box or something so you can transport them to the wildlife rescue center."
I'm sorry. What was that he just said? Did he just say "I" was going to transport them to the wildlife rescue center? Me? Why am "I" involved with their transport? How am "I" responsible for their rescue? I must have had a very confused look on my face when I was done talking, because he interrupted my blank stare abruptly.
"Chop! Chop! We need to hurry up and get this going. You are going to want to get to the wildlife center before it closes for the weekend." he said as he clapped his hands and pointed back down to his snare pole on the ground.
I climbed down the ladder and explained the situation to my dad. He mentioned under his breath that this agent might not be the "sharpest tool in the shed." Nevertheless, he told me that he did have an animal crate that would work and sent me back on the roof to give the agent his snare pole.
I headed back onto the roof.
My dad returned with the animal crate and brought it up on the roof along with several pairs of leather gloves to protect us from any bites or scratches. Then, one at a time, the agent lassoed and lifted the baby raccoons out of the roof. He handed the scared little animals to me and I put them in the animal crate.
Once he was done, we each took turns looking in the hole and making sure there were no more animals trapped in the rafters. I sealed off the hole with roof paper and plastic and then we grabbed the tools and each made our way down the ladder.
When we got back down to the ground, I immediately began questioning how this entire procedure was going to play out.
"Remind me again why are you not taking the raccoons to the wildlife rescue center?," I questioned the agent.
"I don't need to do that," the agent responded. "It's the end of the day and you can drive down there right now and drop them off. It's not that big of a deal."
"Yeah, I know," I said, "But isn't this part of your job to take the animals with you? Like the wild animal in the back of your truck? Isn't that what you are supposed to do?," I asked, trying to push on his authority or appeal to the regulations involved with his job. Simultaneoulsy, I realized that I really didn't know what his actual responsibilities included.
"Look, I still have to head east to release the one animal I already have trapped. I don't have a second carrier and I won't have time to release that animal and get these to the wildlife rescue center. If you don't do this, these raccoons are going to die in the wild without their mother. You will need to do this. The rescue center is less than 2 miles from here and you need to get going." He was very matter of fact and very convincing. It felt like I was being deputized into the local DFW. I decided it wasn't worth asking him again. He clearly didn't think this required his "expertise" and as the afternoon pushed on, I didn't want to miss my opportunity. Besides, how could my involvement get any worse, right?
IT GETS WORSE
"So, just to be really clear. All I need to do is take these raccoons to the wildlife rescue center down by the river, right?" I asked. "They are prepared for this kind of thing? They are used to people showing up at random times with wild animals like these raccoons? There is a system in place? There are professionals who will take these raccoons?"
The agent had picked up the dead raccoon and was beginning to double-bag it in the black plastic bags I had given him. I don't think he liked all my questions.