Posted tagged ‘Morningside Heights raccoons’

New York City Raccoons Go About Their Business in Riverside Park

January 24, 2010

Raccoons on Retaining Wall

I’ve been so interested in Manhattan’s raccoon rabies epidemic that I’ve been neglecting to write about the raccoons themselves.

I continue to watch my local raccoons almost every evening, and get powerful pleasure from seeing them go about their business.

Five of them live in one den, a rectangular hole in the stone retaining wall. A mother and two babies are the trio I see most often, making their way along the wall, usually heading north. Sometimes they stop and just sit in one spot for five minutes or more. Other times they seem almost to defy gravity as they move across the vertical stones, fifteen feet in the air.

Riverside raccoon in big home den

The two babies are darker in color, and their markings, particularly the rings on the tails, are less distinct. The little ones often duck into tiny holes on the wall, holes that seem way too small to admit them. But they pour themselves in, haul their tails in, and then whip around so their little pointy faces are peeping out. I’m guessing a lot of their seeming bulk is actually fur that compresses to allow them to squeeze into small spaces.

The remaining two raccoons are more mysterious. They seem to let the family trio leave first, then one spends a long time peeping out of the den before deciding to head out.  I think both are adults, but am not sure. I’ve rarely seen all five out at once – only twice in the many times I’ve watched.  And I’ve learned that it is surprisingly difficult to get a good read on size, unless the animals are in close proximity to each other.

I occasionally hear the raccoons chuckling and chattering at each other. Once there was a veritable “cat fight” going on inside the den. All we could see was the big rear end of one raccoon filling up the entry way. But it certainly sounded as if someone was reading the riot act inside.

Most of the time, though, they are silent, and their coloring blends right into the rock at night.  People, and even dogs, stroll by, and never know the strange ring-tailed creatures are there, moving quietly along the wall fifteen feet above their heads.


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