Fall ushers in a time for family reunions – at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year – and what would they be without food? The story I shall tell is a bit different from the usual one about these reunions, but is also accompanied by that essential ingredient.
I was weeding the raised flowerbed by our door, when under the deck beside it, out popped a tiny bandit face, about three inches across. Almost immediately, it was surrounded by four more little faces, each blinking at the light. I thought, Baby raccoons deserve to enjoy the sun as much as I do. So I went off to do some work in another part of the garden, leaving them in peace. When I later mentioned the event to my husband, he huffed a bit, saying he understood raccoons could damage the house foundations. However, we had heard no digging noises, so assumed the mother was simply using the space under our deck as a den to bring up her young.
The next afternoon I returned to my flowerbed weeding, when out popped five tiny raccoons again. They settled themselves in a heap to nap, just like kittens, and once more I left them to enjoy the sun. When I returned, the babies had all gone, except for one. It lay dead among the flowers. Ronald took a shovel and disposed of the small remains by the river round our garden.
We had never before seen such young animals out by themselves and decided the raccoons were in some trouble. Ronald speculated that the mother had been caught in a trap or shot, and that they were out looking for her. We were wondering what if anything we could do next, when the four little raccoons came out yet again to the flowerbed. “Maybe I should call the OSPCA,” I said, and was turning to find their number when Ronald, who was still looking out of the window, said, “Wait. Come and
look at this.”
Limping through the trees and across the grass came the mother raccoon, holding before her one, mangled, bleeding foreleg. That leg seemed shorter than the other, and I wondered whether the paw was missing altogether, left behind in the trap. (I had read that sometimes animals bite themselves free, losing a limb.) Somehow, the raccoon dragged herself up onto the flowerbed. Then after much joyful nuzzling and tender raccoon-speak, she shepherded her remaining brood back into their den to be fed.
We had witnessed a bittersweet family reunion.