I was out on the back deck reading after dinner when Tom poked his head out the door, looked past me towards the steps, and laughed, saying “Who’s your friend?”
We quickly realized that this was the raccoon we’ve seen hanging around our yard recently. Claire and I had spotted her the day before, boldly bathing in our backyard fountain, totally unconcerned when we came close enough to take this iPhone photo.
But that evening on the porch, it took a few minutes to figure out the source of her boldness: a few days earlier, I had (somewhat alarmingly) heard the sound of glass breaking in the middle of the day, but never found the cause. Later, Tom asked, “How did that jar get broken out back?” and he told me how he’d cleaned up a big broken jar at the base of the deck stairs. Eventually, we put it all together: mid-day open back door, jar of cat food, bold raccoon! (No cat food bits were left amongst the broken glass, Tom reports.) The jar had a lid with a handle, just like the one in the picture below. Can’t you imagine those bad little paws pulling it along the porch? Now she was back for the new jar.
She’s a very small raccoon, and a little sweetheart–not much concerned about our presence, but still a little shy, and not at all aggressive. She always leaves when we ask her to. Her enlarged nipples mean she’s got some young stashed away nearby somewhere. I don’t begrudge her the cat food (part of me–the unecological part– would love to feed her and her babies!) but for her own good, I’m making sure she doesn’t get any more. Raccoons that are accustomed to human food sources become emboldened, and if they begin visiting households that aren’t as sanguine about raccoons, it can mean a ticket to the animal control death chamber. This day, I went back to reading Jane Austen, and the raccoon climbed the cherry tree to steal the fruit. A much better arrangement.
There is a myth that raccoons seen during the day are rabid, but this is untrue. While most raccoons are more active at night, female raccoons with young, like this little girl in our yard, will be out searching for food anytime of day. When her young are ready to leave the nest, we may see them during the day as well.
There is a lot more about raccoons–mythology, history, crazy stories, coexistence–in my new book, The Urban Bestiary, out this September (and conveniently available for pre-order now, during baby-raccoon season). It’s the time of year that all manner of babies are emerging from nests, dens, and hollows. What are you seeing in your corner of the urban wild? I’d love to hear your stories.