I am boggled by the ability of small mammals to get into trouble around our apartment.
Some of you may remember the Squirrel Incident of some months back. Well, last night, as my friend Julian and I sat around after a fine dinner and yarned about the usual sundries (plus, since Jen was not back from China yet, we could be even more self-congratulatory than usual), we heard a high-pitched squealing. Now, I know that there’s a rather bold family of raccoons in the vicinity; we’ve had guests trapped in our yard for a few minutes because there was a raccoon perched on the gate. So I figured a couple of raccoons were tussling in the back. Thus, we went to go peek.
In the darkness, we could see furry things moving at the base of one of our trees. Feeling puckish, I flipped on the back light to give the raccoons a startle. It was not a raccoon. It was a seething mass of raccoons. Nor did they startle. Instead, the enormous raccoon that must have been the mother of the bunch (I say enormous, which isn’t entirely fair. I’ve seen larger. Still, bigger than you figure raccoons generally are; somewhere between a beagle and a basset hound.) turned and looked at us. It’s a little unnerving when a wild animal gives you a “You lookin’ at me?” look.
So this large raccoon and her half dozen pups are all roiling around the base of this tree, and there’s a near-constant squealing, and it becomes clear after a bit that one of the pups has fallen into the crook of the tree and gotten stuck, and despite their legendary dexterity, the raccoons are unable to figure out what to do.
We are at a loss. We, being fully equipped with spatial intelligence and opposable thumbs, could resolve the issue easily, but wading into a mass of wild animals including the mother of a trapped baby is a quick way to the end that fate has reserved for Jen. So we watch for a while, until it begins to appear that the mother raccoon may be considering resorting to extreme measures that I, for one, do not want to see in my backyard, at which point we decided that now was the time to call Animal Control. Alas, they were closed, but the voice mail forwarded us to Emergency Services, who said they would send a unit over.
Naturally, of course, the act of calling Emergency Services inspired the raccoons into figuring out what to do, and they promptly dislodged the troubled raccoonling and disappeared into the night.
Raccoons are unsettling, I think because they’re the most pet-like of the wild animals. It seems like you ought to be able to go out and pet them, like you might a visiting cat, but at the same time you get that weird wild-animal sense that they’d totally be up for eating you if the opportunity arose.