The grounds of Roseholme Cottage had a visitor yesterday afternoon. For the first hour and forty-five minutes, Tam and I both assumed it was a bird and largely ignored it; it wasn't until I headed for the garage to get my bicycle that I saw what it really was. As I crossed the back yard, a louder series of frantic, plaintive wheepling burst out: there was a raccoon kit hanging onto the big maple outside the kitchen, head down and with a back foot wedged in the bark, about twelve feet up.
I yelled for Tam and we checked the situation out: no Mama 'Coon in sight, at least two hours of crying and clearly in trouble. So -- clever sorts that we are -- we decided to get the critter to the ground.'Cos we're all down with Gaea an' like that; also, it's illegal to shoot 'em in town. Now the truth of the matter is, as cuddly and fuzzy-wuzzy as a baby raccoon is (and they are -- cute as a button, that one is), you do not want want to get between one and Mama. You don't want to handle them, either; they often carry a number of very icky parasites and can even have rabies.
So we used a spring rake. The kit was happy enough to climb aboard and with me handling the rake and Tam opening the gate -- the tree is just barely outside of "Fort Bobbi," the fully-fenced back yard -- we lowered the kit to the ground, where it promptly hid itself in the tiger lilies, wheepling and trembling.
After a my bike ride and another couple of hours with no sign of Mama, I left a plate of milk and canned catfood nearby, figuring it couldn't do too much harm (the 'possums would clean it up if the kit didn't).
...Some readers are probably thinking "Kill it! Follow it back to the nest and wipe 'em out!" They've got a point; city raccoons are pests. They are incredibly destructive if they get into one's home or trash cans, and they're rough enough and tough enough to do you some harm, too. Back at my old house, a giant old king 'coon would occasionally raid the outside cat's food and just stare me down when I tried to shoo him away. He was pretty confident he could take me.
But wherever raccoons can live, you will have them, at least in Indy, at which point the question becomes this: do you have a well-mannered tribe or not. Ours has been a good tribe; they live in the storm drains (except when it rains), usually stay out of sight and don't raid trash. It's only the mother and a kit or two, every year. If we did manage to clean 'em out, there's no guarantee the next gang of thieves would be as civilized -- and there would be a next gang.
This morning, the young raccoon was gone and so was most of the food. No sign of a struggle and no footprints other than two sizes of coonhands. Keep an eye on that one, Mama 'Coon, it's a little too adventuresome.
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
6 months ago