Last night I saw something I’d never seen before: a mother raccoon carrying her tiny baby in her mouth.
The photos, sadly, are blurry. My camera had run out of battery, so I had only my iPhone, which doesn’t do well in low light.
I entered the park just as the sun was setting over the Hudson River.
I scanned the great retaining wall for raccoons.
The setting sun illuminated the entrance to a den, but no animals were visible.
We walked south for a while, then returned to take another look at the wall. A short distance from the primary den, a raccoon was moving on the wall, carrying something in its mouth. My first thought, oddly, perhaps, was that it was carrying some kind of prey. But no, this was a baby raccoon, dangling from the mother’s mouth twenty feet above the ground.
The mother carried it gingerly along the wall. At last, she ducked into a hole and disappeared. Loud, deep growling sounds came from the wall. Clearly the hole was occupied. It sounded like pigs grunting. I worried that the baby might be injured by the surly host.
The dog, tied up a short distance away, was fascinated by the rather alarming sounds.
After some time, the mother emerged, the baby still dangling from her mouth, and continued heading north along the wall. It’s not easy to walk on that wall, even without a baby in your mouth. She went almost all the way to the top.
I could see the head of a pedestrian who strolled along the uppermost promenade, unaware of of the raccoons just a few feet below. Then the mother carefully made her way down the great wall until she reached the ground. Skirting the base of the wall, she continued north on all fours, moving much faster than she could on the vertical surface of the wall.
I left the mother and her baby to their night’s journey. I am guessing that, for whatever reason, she was seeking out a new den, or perhaps, a second den. I hope she found what she was looking for. If there were other babies to be moved, I hope she managed to go back and get them all safely settled. No matter how much wildlife behavior we are lucky enough to observe, there is so much more that goes on unobserved. Mystery remains, even deepens, and every observation raises new questions that keep me coming back to the park, and back to the animals.
Good luck, mama.