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City critters

It was a slow, slow weekend at the Arboretum. I'm not just commenting on the fact that I was not busy, I'm observing that the Arboretum itself seemed to be empty most of the weekend. On Saturday, the majority of folks walking around were accompanied by pro photographers. On Sunday, well, there were fewer photographers and a few more guests, but the place still seemed pretty dead. Surprising for a holiday weekend, or perhaps not. After all, it was over 100ยบ each afternoon. I think people just decided they'd rather go bowling or see a movie. Can't blame 'em.

Anyway, the lack of crowds seems to have emboldened the wildlife. Now I know we have a lot of critters in the area. At the Arboretum or in the area of White Rock Lake, I've seen coyotes, raccoons, and opossums. (I'm just mentioning non-domestic mammals. Too many interesting birds around here to get started.) Arboretum grounds manager J. Glore tells me that he has seen a bobcat at the Arboretum. But most of these animals are shy — and nocturnal. The first time my wife and I saw a coyote, it was crossing Mockingbird Lane at about 5am; we were on our way to the airport for an early flight somewhere. You can see possums and raccoons pretty frequently, but mostly in the evening towards (or after) sundown.

So it was a bit of a surprise yesterday to see a raccoon just tippy-toe across the empty Paseo (the Arboretum's main drag) and jump into the gardens behind my "field studio," in the middle of the afternoon.

Raccoon at the Arboretum

Catherine urged me not to get close. But I looked into is eyes and he looked into mine and I just sensed that he wasn't a bloodthirsty killer. Apparently he sensed the same thing about me, although the constantly flashing of my camera may have momentarily confused him.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="I stepped a little closer and he didn't run away"]Raccoon at the Arboretum, ready for his close up[/caption]

We'd been throwing our drink bottles away in a nearby garbage can all weekend, and it didn't take me long to guess where he was headed.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="359" caption="Lunch time!"]Raccoon at the Arboretum, jumping into the trash[/caption]

He jumped up, climbed into the trash can, looked around to see what I was doing, and then dropped down into the can, like Santa Claus sliding down a chimney. Then, after a minute or so thrashing around in the trash, he jumped back out and went on his way.

Raccoon at the Arboretum, walking away

I felt like offering the guy some ice water but I didn't have a bowl.

Not a bobcat, but a bit of excitement for a slow, hot afternoon in the City.


  1. I forgot a few non-domestic mammals: squirrels (well, they sure aren't pets), rats, mice, and of course, the ever-popular bunny rabbits. Best I can do, folks. This time last year I was in Yellowstone National Park looking at grizzly bears, bison, gray wolves and coyotes, otters, wapiti (elk), yadda yadda.


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