Yes, people, it has come down to this, a post about raccoons. You knew it would happen…eventually.
It has been said that the Wee Banshee worries too much about wildlife. True. When we lived in Calgary, I fretted over coyotes, grizzlies, and mountain lions. By comparison, Toronto’s offerings of roof-eating squirrels, vandalising raccoons, and stinky skunks are no big deal.
Raccoons in Toronto…where do I start? We have the largest population of the masked bandits per square mile here than any other place in North America. They are universally hated although we marvel at their cuteness, their pluck, their cunning.
Except for Runty.
Runty is new; that is to say he’s a baby raccoon who lives in a tree just down the block. Every night around ten, we see his mama (a BIG raccoon, street-wise inner-city beastie) ferrying the family from one side of our street to a tree on the other side. She goes first, with a gait that is a bizarre combination of scurrying and lumbering. In short order come three of the four babies, close at her heels and in tight formation.
After a minute or so, Runty will appear. He is small and hesitant with none of his siblings’ pluck. Even from a few yards off, I can see him shaking. He stands, looking in every direction but the one he should go in. He drops back down to all fours and starts screeching.
I thought banshees were loud.
He sits and screeches. His mama, somewhere on the other side of the street, whinnies to him. “Oh, Runty, do come on, we have to upturn at least 50 garbage bins before dawn!” He continues to screech; soon he begins to pace, inching ever closer to the curb. I totally understand his mother’s frustration. I picture her sitting at the base of her tree with her little hands over her eyes, rubbing them in exasperation.
Last night, things went very wrong for Runty but I have to say, it wasn’t his fault. Well, not entirely.
It was a dark and stormy night. No, really, it was. Thunder crashed, lightning split the sky into a web of light. I was scared. Runty was apoplectic with fear. So freaked out by the storm was he that he bolted up the nearest tree, which happened to be the one that arches gracefully over my bedroom window.
Through the booming thunder and pelting rain, I heard the now-familiar exchange between mother and baby: screeching (Runty), whinnying (Mama), more screeching and chattering (Runty), un-Godly, you-get-your-ass-over-here-right-now screeching (Mama).
With a clap of thunder that had me screeching in harmony with Runty, I heard a combination of chattering and whimpering a little too close to my bed. I sat up and looked out the window; I could see nothing but clearly Runty saw me, which elicted more screeching. “Shoo!” I said to the tree. Runty did not like this approach and nearly burst my ear drums in protest. From down the street, I could hear the resigned mutterings of the mother raccoon. Thanks, Mama, I thought. The least you could do is come get your baby out of my tree.
When morning came, I cautiously opened one eye. Seeing no baby raccoon curled up at the end of my bed, I sighed with relief. I continued to worry about him throughout the day, hoping he made it home. Sitting on the front porch in the late afternoon, enjoying a cocktail I looked up at the tree. Two beady black eyes stared back at me. It was Runty, shaking from masked head to bushy tail. We stared at each other for awhile. I tried to talk softly to him; I offered him a glass of wine. He literally turned his back on me and got busy washing his little face.
I fear Mama has ditched little Runty. It’s a jungle out there – even in urban Toronto. Survival of the fittest applies in more ways than we know. As I finally watched Runty toddle off to who-knows-where, I wished him well and sincerely hope I never find his little self upside down in my garbage. I can screech as loud as any mama raccoon…