Incentives and Property Rights, Dead Raccoon Edition

It seems like only yesterday that I met Rocky. Probably because it was yesterday.

Our smallest cat Caramel was staring intently upward. Following his gaze, I spied Rocky tucked between two branches high in the silver maple near our deck.

Rocky didn’t look well. Raccoons aren’t usually out and about at 3:00 on a sunny afternoon. Lounging in the sun isn’t their thing.

Esther and I thought about calling the animal control authorities–rabies is not unheard of around here–but decided to wait until morning to see if Rocky looked better. No point harassing (or worse) the poor guy if he’s just an eccentric raccoon who wanted some sun.

A higher authority came calling overnight, though, and Esther found Rocky motionless under our deck.

Wild animals are one of my domestic responsibilities, so it fell to me to go poke Rocky with a stick to check his status. Result: deceased.

So what do you do with a dead raccoon?

This is precisely the sort of question at which the web excels. Sure enough, “dead raccoon” generates more than 30,000 hits on Google. But they boil down to only three flavors of advice: (1) Do it yourself, (2) Make it someone else’s problem, or (3) Turn it into a media sensation by claiming you’ve discovered a monster.

#3 wasn’t really an option – Rocky was clearly a raccoon — so I tried the nice version of #2, calling Montgomery County Animal Control to see if they handle deceased raccoons. No dice. If the deceased is on your property, it’s your responsibility – bag him and put in the trash was the advice. If he were on a county road, however, that would be a different matter. Then the county would pick him up.

Fair enough. Property rights ought to convey responsibilities as well as ownership. I’m good with that. But I couldn’t miss the implied incentive. If I were so inclined, I could simply pick Rocky up, suitably attired in latex gloves etc. (me, not him), and deposit him by the curb. I suspect such littering is a popular strategy. People do respond to incentives after all. See, e.g., Stacey Robinsmith’s dead raccoon trilogy.

Being a respecter of property rights and embracer of responsibility, however, I went with option #1. Here are some tips if you ever find yourself in a similar circumstance:

  • Fortune favors the swift. Rigor mortis is your friend. Just trust me on this.
  • Raccoons have claws; use extra bags. Several cheery folks recommended putting Rocky in a trash bag. Well, his claws sliced right through that when I placed him inside. I ended up going with a full-on Babushka doll solution – five nested bags. That might have been a teensy bit excessive. But I suspect the garbage collectors will appreciate it.
  • Burial would, of course, be a more natural solution. But given the number of dogs, cats, and other critters that roam the neighborhood and dig better than I do, that seemed like a bad idea with Rocky’s suspicious cause of death.
RIP Rocky.

9 thoughts on “Incentives and Property Rights, Dead Raccoon Edition”

  1. Well done, Donald! I had a corresponding event in Seattle a few weeks ago, but in my case, the suspect was an opossum, and it was lying in the street in front of my house. After quickly contemplating my options–especially the one that would result from someone’s car tire hitting the thing, I took it on myself to privatize what, given time, would have fallen to government employees…eventually, and with far more mess.

  2. interesting to see someone make an adventure out of what at least a once a month routine out here in the dismal swamp…

  3. Your tale is roughly analagous to the bison that roam from Yellowstone NP into surrounding ranches, only your poor racoon has no economic value, unfortunately.

  4. Dismal economy leading to higher suicide rates in wildlife. Economic blogger reports on suspicious death of ring tailed mammal recently noticed lurking in trees in broad daylight.

    No trend data available but anecdotal evidence suggests commonality of such deaths reaching record proportions.

    Consensus view supports only viable available option at this time “more tax cuts for the wealthy”. Larry Kudlow available for on camera interviews and off the record quotes. Raccoon now #1 Google search term. Drive eyes to your site now!!

    By the way whatever happened to the 44.2 million people on food stamps? Can we work them into a Blog topic this year? How about an update on how much better the economy is now than during the Great Depression, that was originally written in May wasn’t it?

    Suicidal racoons…………….seriously, that’s what your blogging has come to. Next topic, what I had for breakfast.

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