Nature has been for me, for as long as I remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure, and delight; a home, a teacher, a companion. —Lorraine Anderson, Editor of Sisters of the Earth
I know better than to get attached to the wildlife that I interact with daily, but sometimes they really tug at my heartstrings. This was the case with One-eyed Jack.
The big female raccoon, the one we call Misha, has been with us since 2012. That’s a long time for a wild raccoon to stay in touch with its human. Through the years, especially in the spring and summer, it’s not unusual for Misha to spend afternoons napping on the back porch; sometimes flat on her back and snoring, other times curled up like a dog at the door.
Her sweet disposition, and gentle ways don’t fool me one bit. This girl is tough, wild through and through. So when the little ones are about, I give them plenty of space. Misha introduced me to her two cubs on June 14. I fell in love with them the moment I saw them. Wobbly on their feet, and full of playfulness, they found their biggest challenges were the deck stairs, and the cyclone fence. I was concerned for their safety. They were still being weaned, and were quite small. But I told myself, that’s nature.
Misha first brought them around after dark, and then started bringing them out during the day. Both of them males, I called them Mango and Jack. Even at this young age (about eight weeks old) their personalities are huge. Mango is laid back like his mother. He is well-mannered, and patient. Jack is a live wire with little patience, and is fearless, but friendly. When not play fighting, they would attack the jumbo tennis ball we gave them, and would roll around with it doing silly somersaults.
Mango and Jack soon learned how to climb into the yard, but it took Jack longer to learn how to climb out. He just couldn’t get the hang of it. One afternoon, I spent half an hour listening to his little cries as he paced the top of the fence. Unable to stand it any longer, I gave in and opened the gate, and they happily reunited. This I did a few times before Jack realized he could fit between the five-inch gap between fence and gate. I could tell by the gleam in his eyes he was proud of his accomplishment.
On the evening of Jun 27, Misha, Mango, and Jack were on the back deck waiting for cookie treats. That’s when I saw the wound on Jack’s forehead, and saw that his right eye had been blinded. It was an ugly head wound; a puncture made by a tooth that had fractured his skull, but luckily, missed his brain. It was likely another raccoon. Most likely, an older juvenile; an adult would have killed him. I felt helpless. I wanted to scoop him into my arms and take care of him, protect him. My heart broke because at this young age, with a head wound, and a blind eye, the odds were heavily against him.
I didn’t expect to see Jack again, but I did. With each new visit, I could see he was getting stronger. His appetite was extremely good, and he had even grown slightly. His blind eye healed quickly, and skin and fur were already starting to cover the head wound. Each new day brought fresh hope. If he could avoid predators, he might survive.
Misha brought them visiting daily. On one particular visit, Jack stayed outside the fence while his mother and brother enjoyed their cookie snacks on the deck. I donned leather gloves, and went outside handing Jack a cookie through the fence. He pounced on the cookie like a cat catching a mouse. Between mouthfuls, he reached out with small hands grasping my gloved fingers through the fence. His touch was gentle, similar to a handshake as if to thank me. A sentiment that tugged at my heartstrings.
On July 15, Misha, Mango, and Jack spent the afternoon with me outside the fence, from a respectful distance. I delighted in watching them play. When Misha was ready to go, she took to the woods with Mango and Jack frolicking behind her. This was the last time I saw Jack.
The next morning, there was a commotion in the woods. Jays, crows, and even ravens were squawking, warning of a predator. For forty-five minutes, the corvids carried on, louder than I’ve ever heard them. While the bird-of-prey never showed itself, the length of the alarm signified an owl was in the area. Maybe a barred owl, but most likely, a great-horned owl. Baby raccoons, even healthy ones, are easily preyed on by horned owls. I thought of Jack, and hoped it wasn’t so. Several weeks after Jacks disappearance, Misha started making visits alone. There has been no sign of Mango.
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