Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Twin Baby Raccoons and the Return of the Toe Toad

We had a late night last night. Around one, the tiny raccoon showed up on my bedroom porch. I lay back on my pillows, watching her patting the ground for seeds in the glow of the yellow porch light. Then I saw a movement off to the side. I grabbed my husband and woke him up, deeply concerned that a predator might be ready to harm the little raccoon. He grabbed a large flashlight and we crept toward the door. I noticed something dark moving on the trellis, and my first thought was that this might be the rat snake. My husband flashed the light onto the thick blanket of ivy leaves and there was saw one of the cutest sights I have seen in a very long time--two teeny baby raccoons climbing up the vines. The baby raccoon we've been watching each night is not a baby after all. She is very, very small for a raccoon, but she's a momma!

Raccoons are usually about 20 inches long and weigh around 20 pounds, but she is no where near that big, and her babies are so tiny. They are smaller than my chihuahua. At first, I thought she might be the big sister because related females often live together in raccoon families, but it was very obvious that this was their mother. She has appeared once before on our porch with a larger raccoon, and that could have been her mother, or grandma. Most raccoons have between two and five babies, so twins is normal. Sadly, most wild raccoons only live between two and three years because of hunters, but they live more than twenty years when kept as pets.

The twin baby raccoons reached the shelf where I keep more seeds and corn cobs for the squirrels. I hang these on the upper shelves so the squirrels will have a more secure place to eat in the daytime in case they don't hear my (incredibly noisy) dogs run onto the porch. The baby raccoons immediately started munching on the corn cob and finished every bite, then they climbed back down to join their mother. They both darted up to her and touched her nose with their noses as if they were kissing her. My husband tried so hard to get a picture of this, but there just wasn't enough light! Then they started patting the ground like momma, checking the sunflower shells to see if there were seeds left. When they walked, they arched their backs and almost looked like they were hopping.

They knew we were watching them. In fact, I opened the door twice and tossed out more sunflower seeds and bread crumbs. The first time I did this, the momma scooted off the porch as the babies watched silently from the shelf. The second time, the momma scooted behind the ivy and the babies darted behind plant pots, but just like little children, they only hid their heads and their chubby little bottoms and fluffy striped tails stuck out in the open, which was really rather funny to watch.

So, today, feeling rather sleepy after last night's raccoon watching, I walked out the back door and immediately realized Mrs. Toady, the plant pot toad, was missing. She is always very close to the back door, watching me as I come and go, but she was gone. I checked every plant pot on every porch and both ponds. Fearing the worst, I started for the back yard where she does, on rare occasions, venture out during the day time. As I walked by the back door I remembered last year's toe toads, the two toads who slept in the toes of my garden shoes each day. I have often thought there was something familiar about Mrs. Toady, and wondered if she could possibly be the same toad who used to creep into my garden shoes. I knelt down on my knees and looked inside. Deep inside the toe of my shoe was Mrs. Toady. As I softly told her how glad I was to see her, she slowly lowered her shimmering golden eyelids to blink at me. I think this is her way of saying howdy. I am so happy--my toe toad has returned!

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