Saturday, March 21, 2009

Our tenant

The latest news... we have a raccoon living under our porch. We have been seeing his scat for several days, but today was the first time this spring that I have seen him. He is big but not huge, and quite brazen. This evening, as the sun set, he spent at least an hour sitting about 6 feet from our (brand new!) sliding back door, scratching himself as though he had the world's whole flea population living in his fur. (Spectacular.) We opened the door and he moved away... for about 2 seconds, before walking back and resuming his raccoon yoga/grooming session. When we stared at him, he just stared back, totally unbothered.

You have to respect the raccoon. It's a native North American animal. In fact, the English word raccoon is taken directly from the Algonquin/Powhatan word arocoun or raugroughcun, depending where you look; and can be traced back to 1608 (yup, we're talking Jamestown here, folks). Raccoon plays a role in many Native American legends, including one of my favorite stories -- explaining the presence of the Pleiades, I believe -- in which Coyote kills Raccoon and serves him up to his kits. I forget exactly how this happened, but Coyote was his typical trickster self. He and Raccoon are hunting together for a squirrel, and they both reach into the tree to grab him. The squirrel is not there, but Coyote feels around, finds fur, and grabs Raccoon's paw. He pretends he thinks it is the squirrel, and, oops! kills his friend. He brings his prize home to his kits, who shared the meat. All but the smallest one, who doesn't get any. In revenge, smallest Coyote tells Raccoon's six babies what has befallen their dad. The raccoons, in turn, murder the entire coyote family -- all but smallest coyote -- and run with their new friend to the sky. The six raccoon babies and smallest coyote become the seven stars in the cluster. Today, the Pleiades can be seen in the sky when raccoons are hibernating (or, being dormant); but when the raccoons wake up, these stars cannot be seen. I'm not sure where this story comes from exactly, but I think it's a west coast legend.

Kind of a violent story. Kids love it. But the point is, raccoons have been around. And, unlike some of our other native animals, they have adapted extremely well to the presence of so many people. (Funny, all the animals that have done so, we consider pests. But that is another topic for another time). And they're kinda cute with their Davey Crockett tail and their bandito masks.

On the other hand. They eat gardens, having absolutely no respect for the fence I put around my vegetables to mark them as my food. They dig up the grass searching for grubs. They carry some diseases. And I already mentioned the fleas, which are awfully close to the (new) screen door, at which me cats sit and watch the world happen outside. So... if any of my loyal readers would like to shoot my raccoon and make a fashionable 'coon-skin cap out of him... or something... or even have a big live trap they want to let me borrow... let me know.

1 comment:

  1. I think you ought to make friends with him, but if you really want to remove him I can help you with that. I know an old guy who has some live traps, and I will borrow one for you. In the meantime, be happy he's not a skunk.

    --A loyal reader