For ten years, it was the squirrel tree.
Squirrels popping in and out of holes like whack-a-mole, minus the whacking. Chase scenes straight out of Disney—squirrel nose chasing squirrel tail, three and sometimes four in a line, circling the trunk and diving into this hole or that one. This was nature’s comedy routine.
And then a mama raccoon exercised squatter’s rights.
She was not the first to see the nesting potential in this old, hollow tree. I’ve seen many a female wood duck peer into those holes, presumably scoping out a potential nest site. I’ve watched ducks pull acorns from the squirrels’ cache and crush them before swallowing. Once, I saw a very plucky squirrel rise from a hole, dukes up, and swat the very duck bill that had just stolen and obliterated his acorn. No wood duck has ever nested in this tree (to my knowledge), so it seems the squirrel’s fisticuffs threat was effective. But when mama raccoon set up housekeeping, the resident squirrels ran up the white flag of truce and vacated.
Bert and I had conversations about the pros and cons of a raccoon nesting so close to the house. Or, in Bert’s view, so close to the boat, which is housed equally near the squirrel tree, covered and on a lift that would be no match for a raccoon’s climbing skill. Bert chatted with a certified wildlife nuisance control operator, and we learned that it’s not legal to trap a raccoon and release it elsewhere, even if the animal is damaging property. There was no damage, so clearly, humane trap-and-kill was overkill (oh, dear…no pun intended).
We let nature take her course. The kits were already in the nest by the time we realized that mama was nursing. We’d seen her travel many times in and out of the tree, but eventually, we noticed swollen nipples on her belly. Sure enough, a few weeks later, the kits began venturing outside the tree cavity.
And then we were treated to the second edition of nature’s comedy routine, this time with an added note of ‘awww…’
I hope you enjoy this little snippet of a raccoon kit’s trepidatious early forays out of the nest.
For a longer look at the raccoon kits in their early explorations, here’s another video you might enjoy.
Raccoons can be nuisances, but they have an undeniable cuteness…when they’re young!