Last night we lit the tiki torches, and made a campfire in our back yard. Even in an urban setting, sitting within the ring of firelight transports you to a world apart, somewhere between tame city life and wilderness.
We were cooking the vegetarian version of “Piggies in a Blanket,” soy sausages wrapped up in biscuit dough and toasted over the fire (it’s better than it sounds). We heard a rustling in the woods, just outside the firelight. Even in your own backyard, strange and unexpected noises coming from the darkness nearby is creepy.
We saw something right out of a spooky forest scene from a Disney cartoon, with two golden eyes shining in the darkness.
The bright flash of a camera revealed a visitor, looking at us with the eeriest most otherworldly eyes.
Raccoons are common here, especially when the cherries, plums, and apples are ripening in the trees.
They can be very cute. They are incredibly adaptable, living in 48 out of 50 states in the US. (Can you guess which two are raccoonless? Answer at end of post!). They are at home in the city, but are still wild creatures, which people often forget. I’ve had ten or twelve come forage in my yard at once, but I don’t encourage them. A friend fed one raccoon puppy chow, and soon 20 or more raccoons were scratching at her back door and climbing on her windowsills demanding food. Another friend had one repeatedly using the cat door and brazenly scrounging leftovers in the kitchen while the family was in the next room watching TV. Yet another had to take her dog to the vet for stitches after a raccoon attack–she thinks it was angry because she’d recently stopped leaving food for her pets on the deck because it was attracting raccoons.
We shooed the raccoon away with the hose. It was persistent, and took us several tries over ten or fifteen minutes. Those little piggies just smelled too good. That might seem mean, but we don’t want to encourage more visits or a taste for human food in a wild creature.
Long after the raccoon was gone, the s’mores were eaten, and the flames had died down to glowing embers, I could see the afterimage of wildfire reflected in those golden eyes.
All words and images c2014NaomiBaltuck
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P.S. No raccoons in Hawaii–I bet you all got that one. And no raccoons in Alaska, which I’d never have guessed.