A little after 4:30 this afternoon, inside Riverside Park and just north of the 108th Street entrance, Esau and I spy three little faces all in a row, peeping out at us from a hole in the great wall: Raccoons!
Raccoons on Riverside Park wall. You can just make out raccoons on the ledge outside their den. Thanks to the nice soccer player for the photo.
They stare. They wrestle. They stare.
Dusk comes down fast and they seem restless. Probably hungry.
They venture out onto a ledge at the mouth of the den – a mother and two babies. A fourth little face appears, but stays behind.
The mother can’t decide what to do. She leads the babies up the wall. Stops. Leads the babies down the wall. Stops. She’s wary of us, and the other dog walkers and soccer players gathered to gawk.
She hustles her babies into a second hole, and waits. It’s almost too dark now to see the raccoons, camouflaged against the gray wall. My fellow gawkers leave the park, except Jay and his little dog, Chase.
A different NYC raccoon family. Possibly raccoons from outer space. Photo by Striatic: creativecommons.org. (Sadly, my cell phone camera is pretty useless on wildlife.)
Mom is on the move again. She leads the babies not up, not down, but horizontally across the wall. It’s not easy, especially for the little guys.
Wherever the stone bricks form a ledge, the trio goes on all fours. But in narrower places, they stand straight up on their hind legs, faces to the wall, hold on with their front paws, and edge along sideways, inch by inch, looking like small humans in lumpy fur suits.
The third baby never leaves the den. I wonder if the mother will bring it something to eat.
By 5:30 it’s too dark to stay in the park. I hate the shortening days. I hate the loss of daylight saving time. I hate the approach of winter’s stunted afternoons and endless nights.
But I saw raccoons in the early dusk! And now I know where they live.