Raccoon Bonanza in Riverside Park (w video)

Last night at dusk, the great retaining wall of Riverside Park was crawling with raccoons.

Four raccoons on the retaining wall in NYC's Riverside Park.

A mother raccoon (right) and her babies on the retaining wall in NYC’s Riverside Park.

This is the same den I’ve been watching for years now. In 2009 or 2010, before the raccoon rabies epidemic hit, I once saw six raccoons emerge from this den, like clowns from a clown car. Last night, seven racoons climbed the wall.  Seven! Back in early April, I watched a mother raccoon carry a baby along the wall, clearly looking to move it into a new den. My guess would be that this is the same mother with her litter now old enough to be exploring the world under her supervision.

A small crowd had gathered to watch and photograph the raccoons.

"Excuse me, what kind of animals are those?"

“Excuse me, what kind of animals are those?”

Usually, the raccoons on the wall go unnoticed. But the sheer number of animals moving on the wall attracted attention. As they made their way along the stones, they popped in and out of various hidey-holes. Personality differences among the raccoons seemed evident. One, in particular, seemed reluctant to leave the safety of the den, peeping out and retreating several times even as the others had already moved out along the wall.

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Some observers reported that in addition to the mother and babies, there was a “medium-sized” raccoon. They wondered if they were looking at a mother and father with a litter. This is highly unlikely, as male racoons don’t stay around after mating to help raise the young. In fact, adult males will often harm young raccoons. It’s more likely that the medium-sized raccoon is a juvenile from last year’s litter that is still living with the mother. I’ve watched a mother care for, and wash, her slightly older babies here in August 2011.

Wall walker.

Wall walker.

If this is indeed the case, then there may be five babies, which fits the average raccoon litter size of 2-5 kits.

The little kittenish fellow in the picture below is following after its mother, but still uncertain of its footing on the wall.  Apologies for the blurry, grainy photos, but it was quite dark. I’ve enhanced most of these photos to make the images clearer.

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Baby raccoon trails mother back to den.

Below, two babies greet their mother as she returns to the den.

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Here a raccoon peeps out of a hole a little north of the main den. Could this be the same hole where I heard growling that night in April when the mother ducked inside with the baby in her mouth? Or is this another baby? Or another juvenile? Size is difficult to estimate from a distance, so … hard to say. In any event, this individual stayed put while the others were on the move.

IMG_2456Here is a video of the mother waiting with two babies while a third makes its way along the wall to join them.

 For much more on the raccoons of NYC, visit Out Walking the Dog’s Raccoon Archives.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2013, In the City, NYC Parks, raccoons, Riverside Park, Seasons, Summer, Wildlife/Natural History

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9 Comments on “Raccoon Bonanza in Riverside Park (w video)”

  1. theresagreen Says:

    How lovely! I imagine that racoons inspire similar reactions over there that urban foxes do here- they’re cute and entertaining- as long as they’re in someone else’s backyard!


    • Yes, that’s exactly right! I just got back from London, where I saw urban foxes and was THRILLED, which amused my London friends for whom a fox sighting is really a rather ho-hum occurrence. Raccoons can be real menaces, as I discovered in encounters in Dallas and Cape Cod. Now that I live in NYC in an apartment not subject to raccoon invasions, I love watching them.


  2. I’m so glad I got to experience it through your pictures even if I couldn’t be there!

  3. fojap Says:

    I remember once being in Central Park where there was what I assume was a mother raccoon and two kits climbing a tree. It was broad daylight in an area of the park the gets a lot of tourists. I forget that they don’t have raccoons on other continents. Several groups of people had gathered around. I heard many languages, most of which I didn’t understand. However, I was able to make out “What’s that!” in French, and I suspect that’s what the other people were saying.

    They’re very amusing animals. My brother-in-law has an ongoing battle (a harmless one) with several over the garbage pail.


    • I agree, it’s amusing – and wonderful – that an animal common in one area is an exotic species in another. I just returned from Europe, where my friends in London had a hard time imagining what a raccoon even looks like, while for me seeing London magpies and urban foxes (very common there) was a big thrill. I find many Asian tourists seem fascinated with NYC’s squirrels, which many New Yorkers barely even notice!

  4. Andre Says:

    i’ve had run ins with raccoons before so I can’t say i’m a fan…. but hopefully they help keep the rat population in check.


    • Yes, I’ve had some, ahem, interesting encounters with raccoons when I’ve lived or stayed in other places, and have heard raccoon rampage stories that could make your hair stand on end. When I lived in Dallas, a mother nested below the house. When the young got old enough to start exploring, they found their way up into the heating system and ran amok through the walls and into the attic. This went on for a LONG TIME until we were finally able to trap them. Another time, in a house we rented on Cape Cod, a raccoon came in through the chimney and ran rampant through the house, leaving little black sooty footprints absolutely everywhere. It did this several times! It (or another raccoon) also once made a neat hole in a screen above a kitchen counter, reached in and rather neatly extracted a single English muffin from a bag. Still and all, I find them fascinating creatures.

  5. Mr. Mantooth Says:

    What an abundant sighting and great photos. The first pic is priceless.


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