Sunday, March 28, 2010

Raccoon tails

Of all my nature encounters, Raccoons are one of my favorite beasts that grace the suburban landscape. I know the popular sentiment in the world is to leave nature alone but can you honestly look a raccoon in the eyes and ignore him? Well the obvious answer is that if you are in that close with a raccoon then believe me you won’t BE ABLE to ignore him.

A lot of suburbanites have had trouble with raccoons because they turn over trash cans and get into mischief inside, out, and under homes. The internet is rife with hidden camera vids of nature’s bandit breaking into people’s houses through cat doors and wreaking havoc when cornered by homeowners. I have linked our video from 2005 here.

My daughter, while growing up, seemed to have an unusual gift to ‘connect’ with raccoons both young and old. Over the years, she literally came to know by name, dozens upon dozens of these interesting creatures. Yes, initially the relationships were started with food conditioning, specifically CAT food conditioning. At the height of our raccoon healthcare distribution, we were burning through 20 pounds of cat food per month and we only had one cat (but 20 raccoons).

As nature takes its course the raccoon’s grew up and moved on as so did my daughter. Our family also unexpectedly and abruptly moved away from our home, so it sat empty and lifeless for a couple of years. Our time as a raccoon soup kitchen had ended and though it was a relief to save money on the cat food, it was a little sad too. We had enjoyed many memories with the raccoons and had more than a few tall tales to tell.

Eventually we moved back to our home and within a few weeks, a knock came at the back patio door. There was a raccoon I had never met, but it was waiting patiently and respectfully for me to come to the door. I offered up a few stale tortilla chips but not the full buffet of the golden era. He seemed satisfied and proceeded to finish his meal unhurried and unconcerned with a human standing less than a foot away. Now many years later, occasionally still, such as this week, a new masked face will come by and tap on the back door just as his ancestors had done before him. I opened the door and placed an apple in his out-stretched hands. He said not a word, but as I looked him straight in the eyes, just for a moment, I could have sworn, he blinked in morse code “T H A N K … Y O U”!

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