Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Little Things," Little People and Little Lives

(Picture Left: In Memorium -- A family of raccoons at Turtle Pond two years ago. Despite delighting so many people, it only took one loonie to spell their demise.)

Its funny, how when distraught over a major event, one can go totally off the edge over something small and comparatively insignificant.

That's where I am right now.

As has been obvious in recent blog entries, the recent oil disaster in the Gulf and the devastating impact it will have on all kinds of marine, human and wildlife has brought with it, a sense of despair and hopelessness in terms of the outer world and current events.

But, it is "little things" over the past couple of days that are truly infuriating and sending emotions over the edge.

Most of it has to do with, of all things, raccoons.

As previously mentioned, raccoon numbers have been decimated in Central Park over the past few months.

That is because the city has been trapping and rounding up raccoons.

There is more than one explanation for this, but most of it (really) has to do with public hysteria.

It only takes one or two loonies to complain about animals and actions will immediately be taken to either ban, banish, or round up the animals and kill.

A couple of years ago, there was a family of very friendly, healthy and human-trusting raccoons at Central Park's Turtle Pond who delighted almost everyone who saw them (much like the goose family is doing now). People fed treats and the raccoons would sit up and beg for them (much like dogs do). Other people took pictures and brought their kids to revel in the raccoon family.

But, apparently one day, one of the junior raccoons got too friendly and jumped in a baby stroller. The raccoon didn't do anything but steal a piece of fruit. But, the woman freaked out and immediately called the cops.

Within a few days, all of the raccoons were trapped and removed, never to be seen again.

Over this past winter, I saw many raccoons in various areas of the park. Usually they were more visible at night, but occasionally one would see a raccoon in the day time scurrying up a tree or scouting for food in the grass.

I began to worry that the raccoons were becoming too visible and plentiful and that the city and Parks Department might soon take action -- particularly with spring quickly approaching when more people would be attending the park and breeding season would occur.

I like to think when I have such thoughts and worries, they are simply my "paranoia," but that wasn't the case.

Sure enough, notices soon went out to the media that some "rabid" raccoons were found in the park and the city would soon begin an effort to "trap, vaccinate and release" healthy raccoons.

How does one "test" an animal to determine if it has rabies? You have to cut off its head -- i.e. kill them.

The alternative is to isolate the animal in quarantine for six months to see if s/he develops any symptons -- something not practical for wild animals.

Rabid animals are of course, very dangerous. But, one has to wonder how an otherwise healthy population of raccoons in a city park could come down with rabies in the first place? There are no rabid foxes or bats in Central Park. And almost all dogs are now vaccinated for rabies.

Moreover, there were no reports of either people or dogs having been attacked or bitten by a "rabid raccoon" -- or any raccoon for that matter.

But, certainly many people are fearful of raccoons.

One night, when walking my dogs near the Reservoir, a jogger stopped to warn me about a raccoon near one of the Central Park bridges. I thanked him, but shrugged off the warning.

A few weeks ago, I attended a "raccoon sighting" tour conducted by the Park Rangers.

Although walking for almost two hours in normally raccoon frequented areas, we only saw one raccoon high in a tree near the Conservatory.

The park ranger told the other visitor and me that attempts were being made to try and bottle-feed and save a baby raccoon that had recently been found without any siblings or parents. I wanted to say that's because the city probably trapped and killed the parent raccoons.

In any event, the decimation of raccoons in the park is a very sore point with me and apparently some other nature lovers in the park who I've met recently. (That's how I learned the story of what happened to the raccoon family that had been at Turtle Pond two years ago.)

I could therefore not let casually slide a remark put on Facebook a couple of days ago by a relative of friends of mine. Basically, it intimated that all raccoons have RABIES (rabies was capitalized in the post) -- especially any seen in the day time. Another comment later posted by this same person said that all raccoons should be "banished from the cities."

It is regrettable to insult a relative of people I truly appreciate as friends. But, people like this are the real reason why hundreds of raccoons in the park have been trapped, rounded up and almost assuredly killed.

Last night, I walked my dogs around the bridal path that surrounds the Reservoir running path.

I stopped at one point near the North water building to approach the Reservoir itself to briefly look over the waters.

My dogs quietly sat on the ledge while I gazed upon the water in amazement.

There, far off in the distance walking along the sand bar in the actual water, was a raccoon!

(I guess its hard to set traps on the water itself or on the sand bars? The actual water must be the raccoon's last refuge.)

A jogger stopped to talk to me and compliment my dogs.

"Are those Pomeranians?" he cheerfully asked.

"One of them is, but don't pet him," I cautioned. "He's very protective, but you can pet my other dog, Tina."

I pointed out the raccoon in the distance (on the water) and the runner too, was amazed.

"I saw some officials trapping a raccoon last week on the other side of the park," he lamented.
I wondered if that same raccoon had babies somewhere dying now without their Mom -- like the orphaned baby the park trooper told us about?

After a few minutes, the jogger and I bade a friendly goodnight and I began to disembark from near the water building back to the Bridal Path.

But, before I could get there, some 50-something year-old woman walking along the path with a shopping bag, admonished, "DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED ON THE RESERVOIR!"

To which I hurled back a long stream of loud obscenities.

I was so red-hot angry that had this witch from hell been anywhere near me, I would have literally rung her neck. I absolutely LOATH people like this!

Although my intention was to continue the walk on the Bridal Path, a few minutes later (out of spite and anger) I returned to the running path. Yes, I know dogs aren't allowed.

But, my dogs are trained to walk along the ledge in front of the iron fencing. Technically, they are not even "on" the actual running path.

Not one runner complained about my dogs.

Its never the serious runners who do.

Rather, its always the little people with little lives who "complain" about things like well behaved dogs near the running path at night -- or raccoons in any place.

Please Lord, spare me -- and the animals from them. -- PCA