It had been a robust winter with numerous snowfalls. The three young raccoons (aka kits) remained with their mom in their den, which was in the hollow portion of a fallen oak tree when the weather was most fierce. Being only 7 months old, they would not normally venture out on their own for another 5 months. However, soon they would have to. Although the kits were nearly identical in appearance, each had an unique characteristic for which they were named by their mom. The 2 brothers were named Twitch (due to his particular nose motions) and Whiskers (he has so many) and the sister was named Squeak (the noise she often makes when sleeping).
Normally all 4 would leave this safe harbor of the tree together when the weather was suitable to seek food. However, after 2 days of snow that amounted to 23 inches of fresh powder, Mom recognized that the snow was too deep for the kits to manage. They could easily get lost, or worse smothered in such light powder. But, all were very hungry, and the two boys were grumpy and picking on their sister. Mom decided to go out on her own once it got dark and bring food back for all. She was clear with the kits that they must stay in the hollow log away from the opening until she returned.
With some hesitation she jumped from the partially fallen tree into the powder and disappeared being totally covered by the snow powder. She was large enough, as well as experienced, to make it the top of the snow cover occasionally to keep her direction to the nearby farm. She correctly expected at some point she would be in an area near the farm that had been trampled down by the farmer's equipment. However, what she did not expect were the several live traps set by the farmer that afternoon. As she approached the trashcans that often yielded abundant scraps, she purposely entered a wired enclosure to gather food from a pile of wilted lettuce and shredded carrots placed there by the farmer. The contraption new to her and not realizing it was a trap, she was now without any ability to escape. There was nothing she could do but wait for what was to happen. She was confused and scared. She started to cry out but then stopped realizing that she did not want to alarm her kits since they would endanger themselves if they came to her assistance. She went to a corner of the cage and settled down. After several hours the lights in the farmhouse went out, and she felt that she could sleep. That was difficult at first in that she knew that the kits would be scared soon in that she had not returned, especially Squeak.
Indeed, the kits were becoming increasing alarmed when their Mom had not returned after several hours. At first the two boys made fun of their sister as to her worrying. The boys were scared as well, but found some release in teasing their sister. At one point, Squeak broke into tears from her fear, and the 2 boys backed off and were tearing as well. Finally, all three kits cuddled closely to each other for the night with all finally falling asleep as the full moon disappeared behind the wealth of clouds that had moved in.
At dawn the farmer's rooster crowing awakened Mom. She stirred and quickly realized her situation. She panicked and fiercely searched the cage for a means to escape - there was none. She retreated again to a corner greatly concerned about her kits. In the daylight she could now see the increasing activity at the farm and observed the movements of the farmer's family, specifically the young boy and girl. At times one of the youths would be near her cage as they did their chores. At first she remained silent not wanting to gain the attention of the children. But after an hour or so, she changed her mind thinking that perhaps they would help her. She let out a bark (raccoon version) followed by whining. Those noises caught the attention of the boy, and he came running to the cage. He saw the caged raccoon and immediately ran to the house to tell his parents. Within minutes the farmer was at the cage along with both of the children. The farmer had a bowl of water and some carrot pieces that he placed in the cage after lowering a barrier halfway in the cage to prevent the raccoon from escaping or biting him. The farmer then raised the barrier and returned to the house. Mom did not feel personally threatened at that point, but her concern for her kits was overwhelming. Escaping was her only thought at that point.
Twitch was the first of the three to stir from his sleep. He went to the opening in the log and looked out seeing that the snow had stopped. He then awakened the other two to discuss the situation. It was agreed by all that they needed to leave the log to find their mom, even though she had told them to not do so. They agreed to first go to the farm expecting their mom was there.
When they jumped from the tree into the snow, they were totally immersed at first. Fortunately, Twitch was able to follow his mom's scent along the somewhat trampled path in the snow she had left. Although scared, they were determined to find their mom and food. As they moved along the trampled path, Twitch would often bark just loud enough for the other two to keep track of his position ahead. Suddenly, Squeak slid down a crevice in the snow to an edge of a creek. She let out a cry of despair to which both Twitch and Whiskers responded immediately by coming to her side. Squeak was getting tired making her way through the deep snow, and her slipping to the edge of the creek had greatly exhausted her. Twitch suggested that Whiskers stay with Squeak and that those two return to the safety of the den by following the path they had made in the snow. Twitch could tell that Whiskers was very uncomfortable with being away from the den, especially without their mom.
Twitch was now on his own, and he continued following the path his mom had created. At one point he heard his Mom's bark and could tell he was getting close to her position. He moved quicker along the trampled path and soon came to the clearing near the farm. He stopped and barked. His mom returned with a bark, and Twitch could now see the cage in which she was trapped. The boy had placed the cage on top of a table. Quickly, Twitch was at the side of the cage and confused by his mom's predicament. He had never seen a cage before. Suddenly, Mom stood up on her hind legs and firmly indicated to Twitch to go to the tree limb above the cage because she saw that the boy was approaching. Without hesitation he did what he was told. Once up the tree and on the branch above the cage, he looked down to see the boy at the end of the cage away from his mom. Twitch watched as the boy opened the end of the cage but did not notice that the boy had at first moved a lever on the side of the cage. The boy placed several carrots and then closed the cage again. Then the boy used the lever to lift the barrier between the carrots and where his mom was trapped. After several minutes the boy left to return to the house. In an instant, Twitch was at the side of the cage. He placed his left hand on the side of the cage, and his Mom placed her right hand to meet his as they both made a soothing whisper. This was the sound of comfort between the two.
Not obvious to Twitch at first was that the cage was designed so that the end of the cage could not be opened unless the barrier was first lowered with the lever the boy had moved. This was a safety factor of the cage to ensure that a captive raccoon would not be able to escape, or attack a person, when food was being placed in the cage. Hence, Twitch's attempt to open the cage was unsuccessful as he tried again and again to open the cage's latch. Twitch was stumped. His mom was also not able to help since she had not watched when either the father or the boy had brought food. Twitch could sense that his mom was becoming increasingly scared as well as tired given the stress she was experiencing. Hence, Twitch was becoming increasingly anxious to release his mom from this unusual contraption in which she was imprisoned. He placed both of his forehands on the cage as his mom did the same to meet his. This action seemed to calm her somewhat, and Twitch said he had a plan to get her out of the wire box. But, he would have to leave and come back soon. They each whispered again that sweet comfortable sound, and Twitch left.
Actually, Twitch simply wanted to ensure his mom that all would be well even though he did not have any idea yet as how to free her. Twitch also knew that he could not tell Whiskers or Squeak about their mom's situation. First, they would not understand about the cage, and second they would not want to know about their mom's despair. Feeling that his mother was calm enough, and with food and water, he headed to one of the garbage cans to get food to take back to his siblings. The first lid he lifted from one of the cans yielded a generous amount of vegetable scraps. He first satisfied his hunger with potato peelings and then grabbed enough scraps that could satisfy his brother and sister for a while. Within minutes, he jumped from the can and returned to the cage to once again tell his mom he would be back soon. She was much more relaxed knowing that Twitch had a plan - which he did not. Twitch followed the trampled path back to the tree.
Once inside the safety of the tree, Twitch provided his siblings with a story that that they would understand, but without stressing the danger their mom may be facing. After giving the two the food he had brought, Twitch went to the far end of the hollow log to think about what could be done. After much thought, he could only come up with one possibility, and it was quite risky he knew. He did not want his siblings to know of his exact plans in that they would worry too much. But then again, he wanted them to be prepared should he not returned from the scheme he had developed to free their mom. Although he thought Whiskers could be of some assistance in his plan, he did not want to risk Whiskers' life as well and leave Squeak on her own should his plan fail and he, his mom, and Whiskers were all captured.
The moon was now high in the night sky, and Squeak and Whiskers were cuddling together in the far end of their hollowed log. This situation with their mom had brought those two much closer together in their relationship. Twitch knew that they would soon be fast asleep, and that he could proceed with the first part of his plan without arousing them. It was a cloudless night as Twitch jumped into the snow and headed back to his mom's cage. Within minutes he was at the side of the cage, and his mom stirred as he tapped on the cage. She came to the side of the cage to greet him. He was pleased to see that she seemed relatively relaxed and not scared. They exchanged soothing whispers and then he first explained the other two were fed and resting comfortably ... and safely in their hollowed tree. She sighed and reached up her right hand to the side of the cage as he did so with his left hand. He then left her for a moment to again to inspect the cage's latch and the lever. He let out a slight bark of delight as he now knew what had to be done. He would have to somehow use the lever to lower the barrier, open the cage, and then raise the barrier for his mom to escape. Since he didn't want to involve Whiskers, he needed a means to keep the barrier up as his mom escaped through the opened end. He would solve that challenge in the morning in the daylight.
He returned to his mom's side and explained his plan for the next morning to make her escape when there was enough light to do what had to be done. By this point, she had to come to understand the strength and wisdom of this son. She understood the plan and would wait until his appearance the next morning. With one more endearing whisper, Twitch returned to his siblings in the tree, and she to the corner of the cage. She and Twitch rested more peaceably that night than the two previous nights.
Twitch was again the first to wake in the morning. He then awakened Whiskers and Squeal and roughly explained his plan without any detail as to handling the cage apparatus. That expanded level of knowledge would be confusing to them. Without alarming them too much, he explained what they needed to do if he didn't return when the sun was directly above. Simply stated, the two were to stay in the tree until dark and then seek the other raccoons that were nearby for their safety until he and their mom would return. Feeling that the two were fairly comfortable with what Twitch had explained to them, he headed out again from the tree. Fresh snow had appeared over night, but Twitch was still able to follow the path to the farm. Near the cage, he barked slightly so that his mom would know he was near and to be prepared for the escape as he had explained the night before. She returned his bark with hers as had been planned. She was now ready for her escape.
Twitch's plan was dependent upon one of the humans bringing food to the cage, and he waited for that to occur. It had taken some time until a door in the house opened, and the daughter headed towards the cage with some cabbage and carrots. Twitch had already positioned himself on the branch of the tree above the cage. He also had with him a small twig that was critical to the plan. When the girl got to the cage she first went to the end where the mom was 'resting'. The girl made some soothing sounds and then went to the other end of the cage. She first used the lever to lower the barrier and then opened the cage so as to place the food. That was the moment for Twitch to jump from the tree and stand upright with his front legs outstretched in front of the girl. This sudden appearance of the raccoon startled her, and she ran back to the house dropping the carrots and cabbage. Immediately, Twitch jumped on the cage and pulled up the lever to raise the barrier and then used the stick he brought to jam the lever in an upright position. Within seconds, Mom escaped from the cage and she and Twitch returned to the den with the cabbage and carrots. The 4 raccoons would return to the farm in the future, but now aware of the traps.