Posted tagged ‘raccoons in city’

NYC Raccoons and Red-tails in Winter

February 22, 2011

Snow frosted the city yesterday.

Broadway and Riverside split at 107th Street, looking lovely

The water towers wore white skull caps.

A crow surveys 109th Street from atop a water tower

Esau was on the alert for wildlife

Prey?

but the park was quiet

Steps lead toward the river

The retaining wall is always beautiful, and especially so with a dusting of snow.

Raccoons live here.

The entrance to the large raccoon den is once again piled with snow.

I once saw six raccoons emerge from this hole in the wall.

It’s been over a month since I’ve seen a raccoon here, and I’m starting to worry. Raccoons in northern climates pack on the fat in autumn so that they can spend less time foraging in the coldest days of winter and more time curled up in their den. They don’t actually hibernate, but they may sleep away several weeks of bitter weather, living off their fat stores and waiting for milder days. It’s been a cold and snowy winter, so maybe my Riverside Park raccoons are just dozing away the cold and dreaming of spring. But still I worry. (Check back soon for an update on raccoon rabies in NYC.)

Sledders were out

Traipsing up the hill

as were walkers

A man strolls in an only-in-New-York fuchsia faux-fur coat

ice dancers

Olympics pairs, they are not

and a single cross-country skier

Heading south

as well as a passel of happy dogs.

Happy but headless snow dogs

No birds to be seen yesterday.

Branches empty of animals

Unlike Sunday, when a hawk devoured a songbird on the bare ground beneath the retaining wall

Red-tail takes a break from pulling entrails

The snow had finally melted in parts of the park

Back to work

and the hunting was good

Do you mind? I'm eating here.

After a few minutes, the hawk soared over my head, so low that I ducked to avoid contact with the carcass gripped in his talons.  He swooped up to a branch high above the ground in search, perhaps, of privacy from paparazzi like me

Alone at last

And there, finally taking the hint, I left him to his meal.

Raccoons, Marshmallows and the U.S. Government

November 5, 2010

Last weekend, Esau and I discovered a gray box snuggled up against the retaining wall in Riverside Park.

Mystery box

A round hole at either end led to a small chute and a dark interior.

Flowers at the front door

High in the wall, just south of the box, is a raccoon den. I know it’s a raccoon den because, for the past year, I’ve been regularly watching raccoons as they emerge from this hole to watch the world go by before venturing out on evening raids into the park.  I have on occasion seen as many as five or six raccoons pour out of the hole like bulky little clowns out of a clown car.

Are you looking at me?

“Aha!” I thought gleefully, and my heart danced. “I am at long last seeing, with my own eyes, the traps used by the USDA to catch raccoons.”  Need I remind you of my fascination with NYC’s dramatic outbreak of raccoon rabies as well as the USDA’s patient and effective program to vaccinate virtually every raccoon residing in Manhattan?

The vaccination program began last spring in Central Park, the epidemic’s epicenter, and branched out into Morningside Park and Riverside Park. (Click to read about the program and about Lee Humberg, the biologist in charge.)  By April, over 230 raccoons had already been vaccinated and tagged for future identification.

The current round of trapping allows the USDA to vaccinate any raccoons that may have been missed as well as juveniles that were too young or vagrants that have wandered into the area. If a trapped animal appears unwell, it will be euthanized and tested for rabies. This humane and labor-intensive approach has led to a steep drop-off in the number of raccoon rabies cases with only three confirmed reports in the past three months. Compare that to March 2010 with a monthly high of 38 confirmed cases.

But this trap was targeting my raccoons, and I wanted to know more about it.

I longed for a closer look at the gray box, but was deterred by fencing put up by the Riverside Park Fund to protect their lovely plantings.

So Esau and I walked south on the path near the wall, keeping our four eyeballs peeled.

Sure enough, about four blocks south we found a second gray box,  identical to the first, but on an unfenced slope. We drew near and read this intimidating warning

on the hinged and securely padlocked lid

In other words: Mind your own beeswax.

Undeterred but cautious, we peered inside and saw that each round hole led to a separate (empty) wire mesh “Have-a-Heart” trap, baited with … marshmallows

Start the fire and find a stick.

The traps were gone within a couple of days. Whether any raccoons were caught – or were spotted roasting marshmallows and making s’mores – remains just another small NYC mystery.


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