Posts Tagged ‘Idyllwild nature’

Blind Mother Raccoon Thrives

June 9, 2010

The blind mother raccoon's daughter (now grown) heads for the cat kibble.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The first time that I saw her was at midnight in my kitchen. I had just returned from work and had forgotten to shut the back door. I have cats, and always leave kibble out for them. Apparently, the smell had attracted her.

I had written an article on raccoons before, so I knew to start making noise and turning on lights. They don’t like either one. She was headed for the back door, when she suddenly turned around. What was she doing? I got scared.

Then I could see the two little “kits” with her. They were the size of a baby cat, all cute and furry, but with that distinctive black band across their beady eyes. I went for the food drawer, and started getting out some kibble, and promised them more if they left.

I put it out in a pie tin and watched as each of them delicately lifted the food with their hands and ate it. All the while, they didn’t take their eyes off of me once, except for the mother.

I didn’t realize that something was wrong with her until several visits later when she came by herself. She was on the porch ledge eating the bread that I left out for the bluejays.

I put kibble out for her in the pan, and she didn’t step backwards, or run up the tree like her kittens did. In fact, when the food hit the pan, she came towards me immediately. I had no time to react, but kept my voice soft, “Here you go, honey, here’s some more food for you.”

She reached for the food, but missed the pan. She tried again and missed. The third time, she found the food and ate it. I could see in the porch light that her eyes weren’t quite right. Almost a little cross-eyed and tired. They didn’t shine like her kittens’ eyes.

“What are you doing?” my sister in Kansas asked me. “Did you know that they can reach up and open your screen door? If they come inside your kitchen, they can open up boxes and canisters. It would be a disaster!”

I didn’t tell her about the earlier visit.

“I heard that if raccoons, which are nocturnal, go out searching for food during the day, they can burn out their retinas,” some student told me.

“I’m not sure if that’s the case,” said the receptionist at the Idyllwild Ranger Station on upper Pine Crest. “She might have gotten into a fight with another raccoon. You know how sharp their claws are.”

“Isn’t there any raccoon glasses that we can give her?” I teased. I was concerned that if this mother raccoon couldn’t see me, then she couldn’t see any predators either.

(from R) The blind mother's daughter and grandson dine on my back porch.

“Coyotes may be able to sneak up on her if they can sense that she’s weak,” the receptionist said. “You really shouldn’t be feeding her. Like we always say, ‘A fed bear is a dead bear.'”

I knew what she meant. She wasn’t talking about bears, but the danger of feeding wild animals. Not only for us, but for them. We could get bitten, and they could become dependent, and let their natural defenses down. But what about the blind mother raccoon? Would it be better to let her forage for her own food? It seemed a little cruel.

“Well, she’s teaching her babies that they can dine at your place sometimes,” said my mother.

“Cat food is pretty rich for raccoons,” offered Janice, another receptionist the next day. “They really like dog kibble. Perhaps you could feed them that.”

I had heard of a “Raccoon Lady,” in Idyllwild, who nurses baby raccoons back to health. She’s also a pretty good hairstylist. I plan on talking to her soon. Perhaps she could advise me on what to do next.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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January 22, 2010

By Marcia E. Gawecki

It all started when my neighbor left Idyllwild over the holidays. She always gives peanuts to the squirrels.

“They don’t need any extra food,” I said, pointing to the acorns and pinecones on the ground. “They have everything right here.”

“Yes, but they’re so happy when I give them the peanuts,” she said. “They even wait for me on the porch.” She didn’t have pets, so I forgave her and their mess. The shells always ended up in my yard.

One morning, a squirrel ran down a tree just outside my window and awakened my cats. They always bolt upright whenever there’s any activity outside. All three sat and watched it disappear to the ground below.

Then a funny thing happened. The squirrel came back up the tree and stood right in font me.

“Tit-tit-tit-tit-tit!” he scolded at me loudly.

“What the hell?” I thought. Squirrels only scold me when my cats are outside. They like to chase them and the squirrels don’t like it one bit.

“Tit-tit-tit-tit!” the noise went on for what seemed like an eternity.

“What are you mad at?” I asked, looking at him square in the eyes. “My cats are inside.”

Then it occurred to me that this was not about the cats, but about breakfast. My neighbor was gone, and so was her peanut supply.

“I don’t have any peanuts,” I laughed, and rolled away from the window.

“Tit-tit-tit-tit-tit!” The noise got even louder.

“OK, OK,” I moaned, as I got out of bed. I didn’t have any peanuts, but I spread some peanut butter thinly on crusty bread, cut it into chunks, and put it out on the outside rail. The chatter stopped.

There was a wildlife lesson here somewhere. I once read an article that warned that you should never to quit feeding birds or animals in the wintertime. The snow covers the ground, including their food supply, and they’re relying on you to fill in the gaps. Even big game like coyotes search for food in the snow.

Two years ago, when I was shoveling my driveway, I came face-to-face with a coyote. My head was down, and I was toiling away, then I looked up and saw him. Initially, I thought it was a wolf because his head looked so big! But I know wolves don’t live in Idyllwild.

My heart was racing as I looked around for my cat. She was sitting on the front porch, and luckily, the front door was still open. The coyote followed my gaze, then looked back at me. I knew what he was thinking: “Can I get to the cat before the chick with the shovel gets to me?”

I managed to shout, “Get out of here!” and the coyote just sauntered down the road. It was 11 a.m.

Besides squirrels, birds in Idyllwild will let you know when they’re hungry. I forgot to feed the blue jays one morning, and was typing away at the kitchen table. I heard them squawking, but thought they were just annoyed at my cats. Blue jays don’t like them either.

Then one large male (you can tell by his crown) flew over to the window and hung on the broken screen. “Aaack, aaack, aaack!” he screeched at me.

“Oh, what is it?” I asked. “Do you want breakfast?”

I laughed at his gall for interrupting me, and for my new role as servant girl to nature.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.