The Skunk got out of the way as I walked up the garden path in the dusk last night; the raccoon did not as I came home from a walk this morning. She seemed quite comfortable as she lay on the deck and, while she cocked a wary eye at me, she did not stir as I stepped over her prostate body and unlocked the back door. I took her photo through the glass door after I got into the house.
There was no danger of her reaching up with her teeth to nip my leg. We have known each other since shortly after she was born and her mother first brought her to our garden. Ditto the skunk. Both are perfectly wild and consider the garden a sanctuary where they can stretch out and safely sleep in the midday sun. While I provide water for them (as I do for the birds), I would never consider hand feeding them (or try to pet them). There is enough natural food for them to grow fat on. (They have also learned to use the neighbor’s cat doors and feast in their kitchens at night.)
Birds, too, take advantage of the shelter and food provided by our garden. While the raccoon snoozed on the deck, a junco was happily sucking the sweet juice from grapes ripening outside my office window, and a male flicker was vigorously tearing apart apples on the other side of the garden. Did I chase the birds away from my fruit? Of course not. The birds need the fruit as much as I do. Besides, the grapevines cost me nothing (thereby hangs a future tale), and the trees bear more apples than I and my wife can eat.
This harmony has been going on for more than a dozen years, and the raccoons and skunks---and the occasional opossum--get along just fine. They snarl at each other at times, though no blood flows.
Not all wild neighborhood animals are as benign. A bobcat carried off a neighbor’s pet rabbit, and occasionally a coyote is spotted with a lapdog or cat in its maw. Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks carry of inattentive sparrows, while black merlins keep down the numbers of feral pigeons. The barred and great horned owls may carry off a small dog or cat now and then, but they live mostly on the rats which infest this seaport.
Some of my neighbors get terribly upset with the deer who perform free landscaping services by trimming their rosebushes and other shrubbery. The deer have not bothered me since I moved into this house, though they did trim the roses and fuchsias at my last place---but they always left when the blackberries ripened (they stand up on their hind legs to reach fuchsias growing in hanging baskets). Perhaps they don’t care for the company of raccoons and skunks?
Causes John Doerper Supports
Defenders of Wildlife
Doctors Without Borders
National Audubon Society
National Wildlife Federation