Outdoors Column: Everyone Loves Grape Jelly

Years ago, my wife read; to attract orioles to one’s yard, a person should put out a dish of grape jelly for them early in the spring and keep some for them all summer. Much to my surprise, it works. When we see the first bright orange and black Baltimore oriole flit through the yard, we immediately put out a dish of jelly. We usually have three or four pair nest in the trees around the house. This is really fun but we have discovered many other birds and animals also enjoy a bit of grape jelly. It is not uncommon to see red headed woodpeckers, flickers, hummingbirds, and grosbeaks in the jelly feeder. We have to have the feeder high enough in a tree so the dogs cannot get to it and far enough away from the fence so the horses cannot reach it. Given the opportunity, a horse will eat a lot of jelly.


One morning last week, when we went out to the porch for our morning coffee, my wife and I discovered the orioles jelly dish was empty and on the ground. The feeder that had sunflower seeds was also on the ground and smashed. We decided either a deer or a raccoon decided to eat the sunflower seeds and have a bit of grape jelly for dessert. If our raider was a deer, I would just tie Jag to the base of a nearby tree and let him scare off the deer rather than sleeping in a chair on the porch while the bird feeders were being ransacked. I put out a live trap that evening, knowing it would be easier to catch a raccoon than train deer to stay away. I locked Jag in the garage so we did not have him in the trap in the morning. He might not get up to chase off a deer but I was sure he would go into a trap to get grape jelly.


About ten o’clock, I let both dogs out for final call. They both ran down the hill, into the darkness, where great snarling and barking ensued. It was dark enough I could not tell what was going on but it sounded bad. It is times like this a person wishes they knew where they put the flashlight the last time they used it. I finally found it and grabbed a gun, not knowing what I was getting myself into. When I approached the chaotic scene, I could see the dogs were bravely fighting a raccoon in the trap. They could not touch him through the cage and he could not get to the dogs. It was a vicious verbal confrontation.


I put the caged raccoon in the garage and locked the dogs out. I am fairly certain neither dog did what they were supposed to do initially when they were let outside, but they were too excited to think about going potty. Louie reminded me of this fact at 3:00 A.M. when he also needed to check where the raccoon was and had been. It does not take long for me to lose patients in the middle of the night. When I yelled at him to go, he lifted a leg and went. We went back to bed.


In the morning, the raccoon was still in the trap but not in a much better mood. He seemed to hold a grudge about the whole trap thing and snapping dogs. If raccoon season was open, I would sell his hide and make a profit on the whole affair. Since it is not, I decided to take him for a ride to a place where he could make new friends and harass new people. I loaded the trap in the back of my vehicle and headed off to work. About twenty miles from home, I pulled off on a gravel road near a wooded area, took out the cage and turned the ill-tempered raccoon loose. He did not seem the least bit appreciative. Hopefully, he is far enough from home, he can find a different source of grape jelly or give up on his addiction.