Central Park, Manhattan, April 2010
I have spent many of my lunch hours over the last several months in Central Park. As spring has sprung and the sun has come out and the weather warmed I have been in the park almost every day, scarfing up spring migrants like a starving man who finds himself at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Now, taking a lunch break in Central Park on a sunny spring day means that one must have some tolerance for the folks who travel hundreds and thousands of miles to come to Central Park and take pictures of squirrels. Not that there is anything wrong with that at all, in fact, I might have done something similar when I visited a foreign-to-me world capital. But, after awhile, when one has learned the words “furry,” “cute,” and “little hands” in every language under the sun, well, one might be forgiven for having fantasies that involve tossing tourists from the top of Belvedere Castle to land on the rocks below.
One might therefore understand why, when I spotted a rather large raccoon shambling through the ramble in broad daylight, that I considered ignoring the fact that it was headed directly for a family of tourists who would probably say something like “Regardez ce joli animal à fourrure avec les petites mains” just before screaming as they were bitten and given rabies.
Lest you think that I am overstating the likelihood of the raccoon being rabid please take into consideration that signs like the one below hang near every entrance to the park and rabid raccoons have been found not only in Central Park but all over New York City of late.
So the potential danger here was real, which is why I approached the mother of the family (the father was reading and the kid was playing in the raccoon’s path, a place I was certainly not going to place myself, especially after reading about the cost of rabies shots) and tried to convey to her that she should get her kid out of the raccoon’s way. This was not made easy by the fact that I couldn’t figure out what language she spoke and the raccoon had temporarily hidden behind some bushes. I have no idea what she was thinking but she smiled at my play acting and tried to hand me money.
No, she didn’t actually try to hand me money, but I think that might be what she thought I was after, because she said something with a rather sharp tone of voice and her husband looked up as if he were going to have to do something and at that moment the raccoon came out from behind the bushes. I pointed (which needs no translation) and she said “Mis imetlusväärselt armas karvane olend. Ja vaata, et need tillukesed käed!”
I have no idea what that means, but she did call her son over, which was good, because moments later the raccoon crossed the stream (pictured above) where her son had been. Shortly afterward a couple of Central Park Conservancy volunteers came past so I pointed out the raccoon and they called it in and I went on my way, having done my good deed for the day.
To prevent everyone from thinking that I am a responsible and thoughtful person when it comes to rabies vectors I will provide this link without comment.
This post was first published on 9 April 2010 but heroism like this is too good to keep locked up in the archives!
These things fight all the time in my backyard. They voices are so high pitched. I normally have about five in my backyard at night.
Oh, look at those cute little furry hands of this lovely and rather big squirrel.
Er, sorry, I meant:
Also Corey, das nächste Mal, wenn du irgendwelche ausländischen Familien im Park ansprichst, solltest du ein Universalwörterbuch dabeihaben. Eines mit vielen Zeichnungen von den wichtigen Dingen der Welt. Da gibt es welche, die haben Zeichnungen von Brot, Milch, Krankenhäusern, Autos, etc., so dass du einfach irgendwo auf der Welt auf das Bild mit der Milch zeigst und bekommst im Laden dann tatsächlich Joghurt. Wiederum andere zeigen Bindentaucher, Kronwaldsänger und Baltimorentrupiale, was auch recht sinnvoll sein kann. Und ich bin sicher, es läßt sich eines finden mit Werwölfen in allen möglichen Formen und Farben. Letzteres wäre sicher ganz dein Ding.
Und das Französisch hast du irgendwo geklaut.
You’re my hero now.
Really nice pictures by the way…
And another good reason not to travel.
Yeah, I also wouldn’t even dream of visiting the easten half of North America in spring, particularly places like Central Park, Point Pelee and Rondeau PP, for fear of encountering potentially rabid raccoons.
Don’t completely forget your roots.
I am worried!
You are truly Superman.
I didn’t know raccoon rabies had made its way to Central Park. Hope all the Fido’s and Fifi’s are up on their vaccinations, yiiiiikes. I believe in vaccinations.
My biologist friend Kristen who studies raccoon roundworm, which is transmitted in the darling little animals’ feces, says it is just as much to be feared as rabies. A child sitting on the ground, putting things in his mouth where raccoons defecate (and show me a place where raccoons DON’T defecate) can pick up the ova or larvae. The larvae get into the brain and do very, very bad things to people. If you don’t die, you can be left blind and permanently disabled.
People who feed raccoons, whether in Central Park or by the dozens out of dishes on their back porch, need to be enlightened that encouraging contact between raccoons and people is not only stupid, it’s incredibly dangerous. They’re gorgeous, cool animals, but encouraging them around our living spaces is a bad, bad idea. Summer bird feeders, take good note.
Not all raccoons out in the daylight are rabid. Some are just smart. One of the ones at my cabin in PA quickly learned that if it waited until dark to raid the bird feeder, the feed was gone. So it started appearing around 9:30 a.m. every day to raid it. Eventually she showed up with four babies to join in the raiding party. That’s when I moved the bird feeder elsewhere.
True enough, Carolyn. When the females are lactating they are often out and about in the daytime. I’ve had the same thing happen here. And they get very bold. Anyone who has lactated knows that you don’t get between a nursing mom and her food supply!
(Leaving it wide open for new dad Corey…)
@Andrew: After reading Julie’s comment I hope you don’t let your kids (if you have any) play out there!
@Jochen: Thanks for your kind offer of chocolate and beer! I’ll take lots of each. I love the new “wishful translation” service I found on the internet. And I’m worried about Charlie too. He is becoming rather curmudgeonly rather fast.
@Charlie: We need to get you two wood-warblers and a good night’s sleep. You’ll be back on your feet in no time.
@Carolynh: I had no idea.
@Zick: Uh-uh…I know a trap when I see one and I am staying clear of this one. 🙂
Corey, I actually entered into the google translator and it was ridiculous. Wanna know what I wrote?
Wait, here’s my bank account details:
Nigeria Bank of Foreign Funds,…
Here in Florida, the seemingly friendly raccoons are often rabid, and dazed. When people touch them or make sudden moves, it startles them into attacking rather than running away. The cute factor causes alot of bites locally.
Ha ha I loved this! Shall send it to all my New York friends!