A popular, and illegal, raccoon control method recently demonstrated its dark side in Buffalo County, when two pet dogs died after drinking a neighbor''s mixture of fly bait and cola meant to kill marauding raccoons.
Setting out a bowl of cola mixed with methomyl fly-bait granules kills problem raccoons -- and also kills every other animal that happens to drink the poison.
Methomyl, in most formulations, is a restricted-use pesticide that''s only sold to certified pesticide applicators. However, the fly-bait form is available over the counter.
The methomyl/cola coon-control method has spread by word of mouth, according to Carl Duley, Buffalo County extension ag agent. Duley suspects that the practice is widespread in Buffalo County, which has a large raccoon population, and probably in many other areas as well.
"These things get started out of desperation and frustration when people have serious problems with raccoons, moles, woodchucks or other pests that they can''t resolve with standard approaches, such as fencing, trapping or repellents," says Scott Craven, chair of the Department of Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"When someone comes up with a quick, easy fix, people are tempted to try it. But they''re not thinking about the implications.
"Anything that drinks that mix is going to die -- their pets, neighbors'' pets, and all sorts of wildlife that they may not even know is around," Craven points out. "The bottom line is that this is not an appropriate response."
Raccoons are smart and persistent, and they can be extremely frustrating to deal with -- but that''s not a reason to wage chemical warfare on every animal in the area, Craven says. "You can still control them if you take the time to learn how to effectively use legal control methods -- electric fencing, trapping and removal, or firearms where appropriate. For example, you''d pay about $30 or $40 for a wire live-trap, which works just fine when baited with fish-flavored cat food."