Thursday, August 26, 2010

Not long for this world

Today was a wonderful birding day, but it closed with a sobering observation. At the Ladies Pavilion area there was noise up in the tree. Yelling. "Barking". First reaction- oh WOW! Raccoons, a mama and a youngster way up in the tree top. But what was the "yelling" all about? It took walking around the base of the tree to see what was going on. There was a third raccoon, seemingly another juvenile, who was having difficulty climbing up the tree. But why was the Mama screaming? The camera picked up that the youngster below had a weird tail and a missing rear left leg. It was a stump. Could that be what was interfering with the youngster's ability to climb?

Very angry Mama.

There was no way she was going to allow the third raccoon to come up the tree.

Something very strange was happening here.

And here's the reason why. This was one very sick raccoon, most likely rabies. Thin. Fur looking very strange. Flecks of blood on its nose. I didn't even look like a raccoon.

Hard to see- missing rear leg, a stump, and very weird tail. It could move along the lower branches,but there's no way the Mama was allowing this raccoon to come to the tree top.

Go away! GO AWAY!!!

I have never before seen such a sad scene. Eventually the raccoon went along the back of the tree and slipped into the den hole.

There were two other birders on the scene with binoculars and one went for help... find a park ranger or the police. A police car came along. The police didn't know who to call. A Park worker came along . He knew who to call, but nobody answered the phone in the various offices. While he kept trying I trotted up the the Park Conservancy Building where a worker knew who to call. This didn't seem to make any sense to me since nobody was answering their phones. Finally someone made contact, but the plan is most likely to let the raccoon die in the den hole and then retrieve it, or if it comes down on the ground, then do something. The park worker explained that if they come down on the ground in the end they can't even walk. This doesn't solve the potential problem of humans getting too close thinking this is something cute, something to be photographed close up.
Life in nature can be cruel. This was both shocking and sad to see. The desease had really distorted the natural charm of the ill raccoon.

1 comment:

Janet in NYC said...

Beth, thanks for posting your photos of the raccoons at Hernshead today. I was one of the birders on the scene who tried to get help for the sick young raccoon that was being chased away. What a sad situation, made worse by the inaction of the Parks dept. personnel who are responsible for assisting sick or injured wildlife. I can't let go of the fact that the young raccoon is suffering and we tried to help in vain. - Janet