About twenty years ago, I lived in a house in the country. At this house, I had no paved road, no cable, no internet, and no streetlights. In the country, I never saw a bear or a raccoon. Of course, this might be because some of my neighbors had guns and dogs, but even so, I only saw the occasional bird, squirrel or possum.
Then I moved to a neighborhood called Wildwood. Although Wildwood has paved streets, streetlights and many other amenities, we also have bears, possums, raccoons, foxes, squirrels, chipmunks, voles, moles, and of course, birds and mice. Not necessarily in that order.
My first lesson in Wildwood was that, if you leave your garbage outside in a can, it won’t be in the can in the morning. It will be spread all over your yard and driveway, and maybe even your neighbor’s yard and driveway. Raccoons are very adept at using their hands to open a trashcan, even if there’s a bunji cord across the lid.
My second lesson in Wildwood was that raccoons can also open sliding doors with their hands. One hot summer night I baked yeast rolls and left them on top of the stove to cool. After I went to bed, I heard something near the kitchen eating the cat food, and it didn’t sound like the cat. In fact, she was asleep in the living room. Then I heard a sound on top of the stove. I had to get up and look. There was a big fat raccoon, on top of my stove, ready to enjoy a midnight snack of freshly-baked yeast rolls! I shooed it out the sliding screen door, closed the door, and went back to bed. A few minutes later, I heard the door slide open again. I jumped out of bed, raced into the living room, and closed the glass sliding door, keeping the hot night air in, but leaving the racoon out. The next day, my husband installed racoon-proof latches on both screen doors.
If you search the Fontana Regional Library catalog for “raccoon” or raccoons”, you will get nearly 100 items. One of my favorite books from my childhood is “Rascal”, by Sterling North, about the author’s adventures with his pet raccoon.
My third and I hope, final lesson about wildlife in Wildwood was when the bears began to walk the neighborhood. Now, I am an early riser, and I very often walk the paved streets in Wildwood between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., thus managing to get a little exercise and meditation time before I go to work. One morning last month, I was walking up a hill, thinking about nothing in particular, when I hear a snuffling noise nearby. I looked to my left, and there was a mother bear and her cubs. She was frantically herding them into the woods to avoid me. Since then, I have been a little more aware of my surroundings and a little less “zoned out” when I walk. Why, only yesterday, a black bear padded across the pavement in front of me and calmly made his way through my neighbor’s yard.
I hope we all will take the time to learn about our neighbors, native and otherwise, and to peacefully coexist with them. Meanwhile, your library has lots of resources to help you learn how to live in the same neighborhood with local wildlife!