A Snag, a Storm, and a Surprise

Two ears peeking out of a tree cavity

Two white-rimmed ears caught my eye.

Something was inside a cavity in our old, broken tree. That snag had a history of sheltering woodland creatures. But the tree was in terrible condition. It was well-rotted.  And the trunk that snapped years earlier was letting that day’s downpour reach inside.

A raccoon stuck its head out. It twitched its nose for a long while, seemingly assessing the rain. But why? It was mid-afternoon in late June. That’s hours before raccoons begin their nocturnal forage. Perhaps this raccoon was regretting its early-morning decision to sleep in such a leaky snag.

A raccoon looks contemplative from inside a tree cavity
That resigned-to-being-rained-on look.

The raccoon stayed in the cavity, poking its head out repeatedly. Sometimes a foot emerged as the raccoon shifted position in tight quarters. At around five pm, the raccoon crawled up the tree’s interior, climbed out through the skylight, and shimmied down the trunk.

Raccoon climbing out of a broken tree
On his way out of the tree.

It was still too early to eat, and I wondered if my neighbor was finally leaving for drier shelter. I did not expect what came next.

Here’s a video that tells the story. I had no idea there were kits in the lower part of the tree! The back of the snag had a good-sized cavity. On our high, steep bluff, it was positioned where I could catch only glimpses of animals’ comings and goings. But after watching a raccoon nest in another tree a few years back, I know I would have seen the babies crawling around the tree, exploring.  So it’s not likely the raccoon nested there without my knowledge.

I suspect mama brought her kits for a daytime snooze in the old, broken beech. When the rain and wind grew stronger, was she aware the tree was in danger? That the snag was so fragile, it would soon fall?

I’m mourning the loss of that amazing wildlife magnet. It’s where Pileated Woodpeckers nested in 2015. Then the tree gifted me with constant nesting, feeding, or just resting by other creatures. I’m gathering old footage and will memorialize the tree soon.

Meanwhile… farewell, sweet snag.

Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

2 thoughts on “A Snag, a Storm, and a Surprise”

  1. We will all miss the adventures from that old snag tree but even broken and laying on the ground it will serve a new purpose for fungus, insects, all kinds of interesting things until it finally deteriorates into mulch. Too bad we won’t be able to see all of that with your camera, Carol, but what you have shared with us has been fascinating!

    1. Aww… thank you, Carol. A 6-ft portion of the snag made it all the way down to the water (amazingly, considering all the trees in its way!). It lodged against the rack that holds our stand-up paddleboards. Bert’s going to move it to a spot nearby, where I’ll be able to watch all those fascinating new creatures when I’m down by the lake.

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