We drove to Tower Grove Park, for our daily constitutional. Although, it is forecast to be as warm as yesterday was, a stiff breeze was there to sweep all the sweat away. It was quite pleasant. An urban park, Tower Grove is known for the wide variety of trees that it has, 500 different kinds. Beating the expected heat, we got there early enough that the morning’s shadows were still quite long.
As we walked its tree lined and now carless streets, Anne spied this critter in a stream bed that we were crossing over. As she looked at it, it froze and looked right back at her. This staring contested lasted long enough to get its picture.
Even before the pandemic began, coyotes have always been the alpha predators in town, after us of course. Ruling the night, after we humans have all retired to our homes. The raccoon is the next largest animal that lives among us in our urban environs. No match for a pack of coyotes in a standup fight, the wily raccoon has learned to take advantage of our ubiquitous sewer system that offers them safe refuge at every street corner, along with an alternative transportation network beneath our feet. A combination that allows them to coexist.
Years ago, when I was still working, I used to bicycle in Forest Park each morning before work, even in the dead of winter. One morning, while I was coasting downhill towards the park, I spied a family of about half-a-dozen raccoons sitting up on the curb. It was still full dark out, but I was running with lights, including one attached to my bike helmet. As I sped past them all, I turned my head and the attached light to look at them. They were all looking back at me, with the light casting retro-reflections in all of their eyes. The encounter was over in a second, but we were quite the sight for all of us to see.
I am reminded of a New Yorker cartoon from a little while back. In the cartoon a raccoon is seen standing on its hind two feet, at the top of the stairs of the brownstone where it presumably lives. A food delivery person has arrived and the raccoon instructs the deliveryman to, “Just leave the food in the trash can.”
Anne has asked be to mention that both we and the raccoon were wearing our masks throughout today’s encounter. I should also mention that raccoons are well renowned for washing their hands. I mean if your lifestyle in this pandemic entails hanging out in sewers, you’ve got to take precautions. By way of full disclosure, my favorite childhood stuff animal was an FAO Schwarz raccoon, who I called Racky Raccoon.