Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Raccoons in the City

Glen and I have been thinking a lot about raccoons lately. The frequent snows of this winter have provided opportunities for watching tracks. We have especially enjoyed looking at raccoon tracks.
From our tracking it appears we have one regular raccoon in our yard. From the last snow we were able to backtrack it to the alley behind our house. It looks like we are part of its regular circuit. It comes along the alley, cuts through our back yard, alongside the house and then out to the street. From the snow record, this appears to be its usual path. I have yet to find scat or daytime sleep roosts.

However, that all changed last weekend. We went to the Burke Museum of Natural History for a Mammals of Washington workshop. We were immersed in the life of mammals, looking at skulls, and bones and furs. Perhaps this is why we were paying good attention when we left Saturday afternoon.

We were leaving the area by their little cafe. Our eyes were drawn to a pair of oak trees planted along the parking area. About halfway up these trees, the trunks start to branch off. There is a commodious crotch at this point. If you look closely, you see a bundle of brown oak leaves stuffed into this crotch. If you look even more closely you will see a gray fur bundle, splayed out over those leaves, sleeping away and oblivious to the life going on 20 feet down. Yes, this is a raccoon, doing its daytime kip. There is another raccoon in the oak nearby.

Later I was talking with my friend Cynthia who lives near Garfield Ravine. She said that if you take the path down into the ravine and keep looking up, you can see raccoons sleeping, right in our own Olympia backyards. Glen & I also live near Garfield ravine. This may be where our raccoon is headed, on its nightly circuit.

Watching these animals, and thinking about their lives, reminded me of a quote from Henry Beston's The Outermost House:
"We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals...For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of time and life, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth."

Raccoons are one of many many animals who are caught with us in this net of time. We need to remember that. We need to keep watching their tracks. We need to keep looking up.


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