Ungainly, clumsy, and cumbrous.
A raccoon exits our broken tree, and those three words come to mind. The animal’s slow, lumbering descent is unlike a nimble raccoon I watched three years ago.
This year’s raccoon has been climbing in and out of what’s been a nesting snag for woodpeckers, wood ducks, starlings, and squirrels. The snag is like a high-rise condo, with more than a dozen visible cavity entrances. Judging from the creatures’ in-and-out behavior, I believe many of the cavities are discrete–they don’t interconnect. The upper cavity, where the raccoon catches its 40 winks, doesn’t offer much shelter. Here’s what I mean:
Considering that broken top, I’ve assumed this is a raccoon snoozing spot and not the den of a nesting female.
But then… there’s that cumbrous descent. The animal’s gait is increasingly labored, and it reminds me of my own ponderous waddle decades ago, when my babies neared full term.
Is my masked neighbor a nesting mama, after all?
Here’s the raccoon on a recent outing.
Wouldn’t you say slow, clumsy, unwieldy, and uncomfortable?
Let’s compare to footage of a raccoon that nested nearby three years ago. I estimate she had given birth a week or so earlier. How would I know this, you wonder? I have a date-stamped video of her kits’ initial foray outside the den, suggesting they were about eight weeks old. Raccoon gestation takes 63 days, so working backward, I’m able to estimate their birth date. Here’s that mama:
This lady is nimble and quick compared to our current raccoon neighbor.
Another snippet of evidence favoring a near-term blessed event comes from some research. It seems that when a raccoon uses a snag or other cover just for a daytime snooze, the creature won’t use the same shelter two days in a row. I see this raccoon each day in the late afternoon, which argues for a nest in our broken-top beech.
We have so many snags, and most would provide better cover! If my suspicion is correct, what do you suppose this mama was thinking when she chose a den with a starlight view?
If you’d like to see a preview of what I hope will be some fun raccoon-kit antics, here’s a blog post that shares the earlier fun.
When–or if–I see little kit faces peeking from the tree, I’ll report back.
Happy Mothers Day!