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Posts Tagged ‘raccoon’

young raccoons

Life and death act out their forces on nature and man. And so it went with this old house. No one lives there any more. The lawn has grown thick with meadow grasses and multiflora rose, and no one seems to remember much about who lived there or the dramas of existence that played out within its walls.

But one would be wrong to think such an edifice would be without life. Two orphaned raccoons, both brothers, wound up commandeering the premises one sweltering hot July evening.  Their mother had been crushed on the highway. She darted out just as a massive semi came racing down the lane, and she was exited this mortal coil in a loud thud and the whirring of tires upon bone and ligament.

They were well-weaned when she was killed, and they spent the better part of the summer learning to be proper raccoons. They negotiated the lazy streets and moved onto quite country lanes, where garbage was sometimes illegally dumped.  They avoided the barking dogs and the murderous boar racccons. They bluff-charged cats and swatted away slobbering opossums.

For weeks, they meandered about, but one day, the came across something quite nice. One a quiet country lane, an old house stood.  And to the curious young raccoons, it was a beacon. It was like finding an island full of hidden treasure. It smelled so interesting and so beguiling.

Weather had worn down some siding near the front door. All it took was a bit of chewing and pulling, and the two brothers had made themselves a good entry hole.

Upon entering the house the found it full of old tables and chairs and couches from the time Gerald Ford was president.  Scores of insects, including beetles and moths, had taken up residence in the house, and these creatures were a welcome nighttime repast for the two brothers.

A fox squirrel had made her nest in the attic, and her four little babies also were a nice snack, but after going through the house in search of food, the two brothers realized they had stumbled upon a true treasure.

Most raccoons den up in trees. A few unfortunate souls use burrows that were dug by other creatures.  Some raccoons do well in old barns, and countless ones have taken up residence in chimneys.

Normally, those that choose to live in human created structures find themselves evicted pretty quickly, but no one cared about this old house. A car might pass by the structure twice or three times a day, usually the crotchety old man who lived at the end of the road. He would curse about the eyesore had to pass when journeyed back to civilization, but he wouldn’t do anything about it. He would just motor on in disgust and go on with his day.

So the two brothers had found themselves a raccoon castle, and for the rest of the summer, they used it as their retreat. At night, they would make sorties into true dwelling civilization, and by morning, they would be at home in the old house.

And so through the summer, the two brothers lived well in their castle, but this situation could not go on forever. They could not know that the coming winter would bring on the rut, the great war between the boars. They could not know that someday they would be tearing at each other’s faces.

But for now they curled up beside each other as the sun cast down into the smudgy old windows. The light it cast in the house was ethereal. Ancient dust rose into the beams of light, casting about like some forlorn glitter.

They snuggled into each other as the hissing of dog day cicadas buzzed out from the adjacent walnut trees.  The youthful summer was now, and they could thrive and wallow in it.

But just as all things with man and nature, the summer of peace would be fleeting on.

But in youthful raccoon existence, there is no time to think of such matters or even to consider them. That something is temporal is not even understood.

And so they slept in the bliss of the current hour as if it were all that lay ahead. To be is to be, and one must be right now and not in the horrors of the coming future.

They were young raccoons in that state of ignorant bliss, a state our kind secretly admires though publicly disdains as if we all didn’t know the real truth.

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I took the trash out this evening, and I discovered a litter of trash pandas hanging out by the bin. I did not see the mother, but they did run when we realized we weren’t to be trusted.

trash panda 1

trash panda 2

trash panda 3

trash panda 4

trash panda 5

We did not touch them.  I hope their mother is nearby. If I see them out tomorrow, I will be calling the DNR.

 

 

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Raccoons in Ireland

raccoon

Europe has no living native Procyonids.  Germany and the countries on which it borders do have a well-established population of raccoons, but the British Isles were thought to be raccoon-free. In fact, I refused to watch one version of 101 Dalmatians because it featured raccoons in England. Every English person knows there aren’t any raccoons running around.

However, the same cannot be said of Ireland. Rumors of errant raccoons have been filtering through the internet for quite some time. I got wind of it in 2011, when raccoons were sighted in County Cork. 

I didn’t think it was possible that there could be a breeding population in Ireland, but in recent months, a raccoon was hit by car in County Clare back in September.

In November, a raccoon was live-trapped and humanely euthanized in Cork.

These might be errant escaped pets, but errant escaped pets are the basis for a potential breeding population. And if you think that sounds far-fetched, well, Germany has a growing population of raccoons that were introduced in the 1930s.

Ireland has a much milder climate than most of North America, and this species of raccoon lives where the winters can be quite harsh.

These sightings could very well be the start of a real problem in Ireland. Raccoons are the ultimate mesopredator in that they relish raiding bird nests and even killing ground-nesting birds and poultry. Their numbers have flourished in North America since the widespread extirpation of wolves and cougars, and in Ireland, they would likely find a paradise. They would have to compete with badgers and red foxes, but because they are such adept climbers, they would also have access to food sources in trees.

We can hope that an established population of raccoons isn’t being founded in Ireland right now, but I almost wouldn’t bet against it.  They do very well on the continent. Ireland is ripe fruit, reading for the clawed hands to pick.

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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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