Riverside Park Spring Walk: Raccoons, Retaining Walls and the USDA
Find out why yesterday’s sighting of a USDA truck is cause for rejoicing.
But first, strange markings appeared last week on the retaining wall and nearby path.
With my wildlife-obsessed outlook, I speculate that the circled numbers and targets have something to do with the raccoon vaccination program. But what? Do the markings indicate that trapping and vaccinating has begun in Riverside Park? Do they show where raccoons are likely to be found?
The park is cool, bright and windy.
Storm-created ponds remain.
Sparrows huddle in forsythia bushes, puffed up like little balloons against the wind.
Suddenly, up ahead on a pathway, we see … a USDA truck.
You have to understand. USDA is handling the Trap-Vaccinate-Release program for the city. If anyone can answer my many questions, USDA can. Earth-shattering questions, like: How is the program going? Any estimates on the Central Park raccoon population? How long will it take to know if the program is succeeding? Any new theories on why the disease took such vehement hold this year?
Esau and I run after the truck. But it gets away.
Saddened, we trudge toward home. Then, half a mile north, it suddenly reappears. We run. We wave our arms. The truck stops. The window rolls down. Success! We speak briefly with the driver through the window.
A USDA biologist, he confirms that the Riverside Park phase of the raccoon vaccination program began on Tuesday. The markings on the wall have nothing to do with the raccoons. He seems to need to get back to work and offers his card for a follow-up conversation.
We sing as we head north, happy to have even a little more information.
He’s keeping park-goers safe by surveying the retaining wall for structural weaknesses in hopes of preventing problems, like the collapse of the retaining wall that closed the West Side Highway for three days in 2005. The marks and targets help him line up his equipment for accurate readings. The targets are always there, he says. He recently freshened up the paint, which is why we suddenly noticed them.
“So how’s it look?” I ask. “The wall.”
“It’s an old wall,” he says. “But it looks pretty good.”
I couldn’t agree more.2010, Birds, Flora, In the City, March, rabies, raccoons, Wildlife/Natural History
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