Two nights ago, around nine o’clock, I leaned over the retaining wall at Riverside Park to look for raccoons, and found a raccoon looking right back at me. It was perched, as it were, on the broad stone ledge outside its den. We stared at each other, each apparently curious what the other might do. Neither one of us did much of anything.
This raccoon and its family members have an ideal den spot with a broad ledge outside that makes it easy for them to loll and relax at the mouth of the hole.
When a man and two off-leash dogs came into view on the path below, the raccoon turned its attention away from me to watch the newcomers.
The man was talking on his cell phone and kicking a ball for his rambunctious long-legged black mutt to chase, while a slow, imperturbable pug brought up the rear. Neither man nor dogs noticed the raccoon high above their heads, watching their every move. Nor did they notice this human, even higher above their heads, also watching every move.
As it watched, the raccoon curled partway into its hole.
We left it there, the dog and I, and continued our walk along the Riverside Drive promenade. On our way back, I again leaned over the wall.
But the raccoon was gone.
It had probably ducked back into its den. In my admittedly limited and unscientific observations, the Riverside raccoons are slow to actually leave the den for their evening forays into the park. They tend to hang out on the ledge for quite some time, singly or in twos, threes or even fours. They look around and sniff the air, occasionally ducking back into the den as if suddenly remembering they’d left the stove on. Sometimes, when the weather is pleasant, a raccoon will groom itself or a mother will groom a kit, although I haven’t seen any grooming behaviors yet this season. I can’t even say how many raccoons are living in the den this year. Eventually, though, one or another of the raccoons will leave the ledge and start making its way north along the wall. Only rarely do I see one heading south from the den, probably because the grand stone staircase quickly breaks up the wall, so that the raccoon would have to come down to the ground right at a spot that is well traveled by humans and dogs.
Here is the view from just above the den of Riverside Park, the Hudson River and New Jersey.
Not bad. You might linger at the mouth of your den, too, if you had this view to look at.