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Posts Tagged ‘Northern raccoon’

Crick Coon

crick coon

The stream runs in a soft trickle over the sandstone. It doesn’t babble like any old New England brook. This is an Appalachian creek, best pronounced “crick” for the little crickety sound that it makes as it journeys down the hollow.

The minnows and crayfish dart among the stones. No bass or crappie or walleye or sauger can make its way this far up in the hills. The shallow water is a refuge from the predatory fish, and thus the little fish and “crawlcrabs” are safe from those predatory lips.

But when night falls in the hollow, the shallow water’s security features become a pretty bad liability.

In the veil of darkness, the old boar ‘coon that dens in the old white oak that has grown thick and strong on a little rise on the creek bank is leaves his day rest and saunters down to the water.

He has done this maneuver many times, and he knows which holes hold the most minnows and crayfish.  So he doesn’t go splashing the water like a maniac. He goes deliberately, wetting his feet only when he knows he is likely to put his hand-like paws into the water and catch a little midnight snack.

He finds his first hole and wades into the trickle of water. He reaches his forepaws into the creek, feeling and feeling with his fingers for the quarry.

Five minutes of feeling around and a big crayfish falls into his hands. The raccoon savors his nice little meal and then thrusts his paws back into the water.  He catches a minnow.  He devours it.

The old boar comes to hand fish in the creek every night, except for those days of frigid winter, when the ice clogs up the creek and all wise raccoons stay up in their tree dens.

In late winter, the scent of estrus from the sow raccoons draws him to wander and occasionally wage war on the other boars that come calling, and in the autumn, he mixes up his seafood dinners with a few corn patch raids and sorties through the oak lots for acorns.

And in summer, when the wild raspberries grow black on the thorn bushes, he goes slinking along the berry patches, filling his jaws with a little sweet fruit of the land.

But he is a crick coon by trade. He knows the crayfish and the minnows, and when the rains fill the creek bed and allow the odd sucker or redhorse to come swimming up his way, he tries his hand at catching a few of those, too.

Maybe he’ll get caught raiding a corn patch someday.  Or maybe the baying hounds will tree him. Or maybe an upstart young boar will fill the creek bank with enough upper cuts and growling churrs to topple the old man.

But for now, the old boar will hold his own along the trickling crick.  The snow will fall, and the summer heat will swelter.

But his night will be spent on the quest for minnows and crayfish. His kind is named Procyon, perhaps for the star that shines brightly above him on those clear nights when the barred owl’s calls are clear and piercing and the moon casts silver beams upon the skeleton trees.

He never looks up though.  The stars and their courses mean little to a beast that goes nose down sniffing the creek banks.  Feeling hands and quivering nose are how he makes his way in the world.

And he does it well.

 

 

 

 

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I put out some sardines in oil in front of the Moultrie 1100i.  I dripped some oil down the trunk of this tree, and these two young raccoons came to visit.

I would say these two are siblings from last year’s litter, and it is obvious one of these raccoons isn’t into sharing at all.

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Warriors in the hollow

raccoon

It was a bad Saturday night.  My candidate was soundly defeated in the Nevada Caucuses, and I was smarting badly from loss.

Even as the night was drawing in, I knew the only way I was ever going to start feeling better was to go out into the woods for a twilight perambulation.

The Saturday before was a subzero night. Snow was on the ground and each step was hard and sharp and crunchy. This night was much warmer. It was well above freezing, and the sky was without any clouds. The stars were shining. The moon was almost full.

The squabbles out in Nevada now seemed pointless by comparison, and as I walked into the darkness of a stark February wood, I began to revel in the majesty and forget machinations of humanity. This is what I wanted anyway. Peace and quiet and a realization that this is all insignificant by comparison.

My reverie was then interrupted. In the hollow below the the logging road where I was walking came the churs and snorts of warring demons. There were screeches and squalls mixed into all the din. There was a great battle gong on below me, and I knew instantly what was happening.

February brings the raccoon mating season, and two of the local boars were sorting it out over a female in estrus. I guessed the one of them was the resident ridge-running raccoon who found him a sow to follow on this moonlit night, but the warmer weather and the intoxicating odors had brought up a challenger from the creek bed.

For five minutes, I listened to the boars fight. I debated as to whether I should wander down and see if I could get a better look.  But I was certain they would run if they heard my approach down into the hollow.

So I stayed put and listened to the war.

And as soon as the cacophony rose, the air fell silent again. The boars were not fighting now. Perhaps one had beaten the other, and now he had the sow to himself.  Or maybe they were off licking wounds and getting ready for another donnybrook.

I didn’t stay long to find out. My mind was tuned to something else besides politics, of the narcissism that is inherent in being human..

Raccoons have fought these wars long before there was a United States, long before there were Democratic Caucuses and primaries. Their wars were about passing on genes. Nothing more. Nothing less.

As I watch now, in this general election from Hell, I think back to that night in February. I think of the moonlight and the stars and the primitive war of ‘coons in a deep hollow.

The sun will rise tomorrow. The seasons will change. My life will one day end.

All around us are these parallel dramas, ones we don’t often take a time to consider.

We all live in alienation from this world to some degree.

But it’s important to break away from our world and see it in proper perspective.

In proper perspective, we can be fully humbled before the mystery.

 

 

 

 

 

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Raccoon picnic

This family of raccoons came by to eat some deer pellets and nibble on the feed block.

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Raccoons out foraging

These two raccoons are in their summer coats, and I think they are females that have been nursing young. If you’ve never seen one before, they have an interesting way of moving. They are plantigrade but light on their feet.

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Rascal fats

Big, fat boar raccoon:

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The first time I heard this sound in the dark, I had no idea what it was.

For those of you who don’t live where there are raccoons, I can tell you they are much more dog-like than you’d expect from animal that isn’t actually canid species. When you look into the eyes of a raccoon, it’s like looking into the eyes of a dog. This is a creature with a mind.

Probably the best way I can describe them to those who have never seen one in the flesh is they are kind of like a dog mixed with a primate and a bit of bear thrown in for good measure.

And when they are scared, they make lots of strange noises, including this alarm bark that sounds a bit extraterrestrial.

 

 

 

 

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