Mammal time

Racoons

We only have a very small vegetable garden tucked away at the back of our large and bosky wildlife and flower garden. It has been enlarged this year as we were not sure what would take to the soil and the site. The plantings have been experimental in nature and included six or seven varieties of tomatoes “just to see”. One of the varieties is the ubiquitous Sweet-100 cherry tomato – we have grown this before, both in Canada and in the UK and it has always been well behaved and bountiful but here it has turned into a veritable triffid which, despite constant pinching out of side-shoots, has taken over its corner of the plot and is groaning under the weight of dozens and dozens of sweet, red tomatoes. A success. Next to it is a variety of heritage beefsteak tomato that, when ripe, is supposed to be black. I recall growing black tomatoes once in England and they were exceptionally tasty, if susceptible to bugs and other things inimical to the life of a ripe fruit.

Anyway, large proto-black tomatoes set and waxed mightily and started to ripen on the vine … at which point the racoons of the neighbourhood (and there are many) found them and took experimental mouthfuls of flesh. This was not good – we rescued what we could and cut off the bitten parts so we did have something to add to a ratatouille. Other toms grew and were similarly afflicted a few days later. Tonight I will be taking off a very large semi-ripe black tomato and ripen it indoors because if not, my Procyon lotor friends will have it before cock-crow tomorrow.

But – and here I am in search of an answer – the immediately adjacent, ripe, red and sweet Sweet-100 toms and all the other varieties in the veg patch are being totally ignored despite being very tasty and nutritious. So, what is it about heritage black toms that the racoons cannot resist? There is always a reason for this sort of thing but I am blowed if I know what.

Note … the photo is not mine, it’s not my racoon and not my tomatoes but you will get the idea … I believe this is a racoon from Missouri. If this is your photo, thank you and I hope you don’t mind.

Foxes

The other large mammal we have in our neck of the suburban woods (apart from dogs) is the fox. They are generally discrete and really only reliably seen in winter when there are less leaves to hide be hide and more need to get out in daytime and find some food. Yesterday, I had sallied forth on the bike and was returning home after a long and arduous trip (to the store for some milk). Approaching home, I usually take a short-cut at the top of the road along a gravel track through a small piece of woodland beside the highway. As I approached a young (determined by its small size and exceptional fine and “new” furry coat) fox appeared quite casually at the entrance to the path. I slowed down and we looked at each other with interest (and cursed that there was no camera – at least I did). He/she looked at me curiously, cocked its head to one side and then to the other and then realizing that I was still coming it turned and trotted down the track ahead of me. I followed for a couple of minutes at perhaps 20 feet distance and it didn’t seem worried about my presence. Eventually, it looked over its shoulder and hopped neatly sideways into the undergrowth and was gone.

Foxes are very fine creatures indeed. This was a nice encounter and I hope we will meet again before long.

I recall some forty years ago when I was studying matters pathological that an anatomy lecturer turned up in the lab one morning with a large black bin-bag (maybe my memory is playing games – did we have bin-bags back then? Had plastic been invented?). He put it on the bench and announced that today we would be dissecting something a bit different just to give a little interest to our sad lives. The bag contained a dead fox he had found beside the road on his way in that morning – a bit stiff but otherwise in good condition. I think I can still smell it today – interesting but definitely rank. Yesterday’s fox was altogether “nicer”.

Birds

Meanwhile, we seem to be able to go hardly nowhere at the moment without falling over juvenile Song Sparrows. It has been a good summer for avian productivity.

 

 

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