November 2nd, 2008
Sorrow for my enemy

dead raccoon

I rounded the corner of the failed garden house and was stopped cold in my tracks by this sight.

dead raccoon

I held very still, thinking I’d just come upon him unawares but then I realized he was lying on the ground and flies were hovering. I knew he must be dead.

He cannot have been dead very long because I didn’t notice him at noon when I took the compost out to the pile. Nor have the ants found him yet.

But how did he die? There isn’t a mark on him. And no, for all my railing against the raccoons, I didn’t kill him by poison or any other means. There is nothing in my own back yard to have poisoned him accidentally either.

dead raccoon

I don’t rejoice in his death. I didn’t wish him harm. I just wished him life elsewhere.

by M Sinclair Stevens

28 Responses to post “Sorrow for my enemy”

  1. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    I’m always concerned when something dies in my garden and I can’t tell how it happened. I get worried that it has some kind of disease that I might get.

    Maybe one of your neighbors set out some poison?

    I’m with you, I don’t wish them dead, I just wish them to not destroy anything in my garden.

  2. From M2 in Bothell:

    And, especially with raccoons, the face, the hands, and a lot of the actions, are all very person-like. Being your enemy, also, you had a relationship.

    What was overhead? Perhaps he fell? (Dramatic pause … maybe he was PUSHED?!)

  3. From deb:

    Poor thing. I agree that they are not good gardening partners, but I don’t want them dead.

  4. From Tina Vaziri:

    Aw, that is really sad.

  5. From Jenny Austin:

    Like carol I don’t like to find dead animals in the garden and not know why they suddenly died out in the open. Around here they don’t stay around for long because the vultures come in. Nature has a perfect way to clean up. I wonder if the vultures venture into the city?

  6. From Nancy Bond:

    Poor little fellow. They certainly are pests, but like you, I wouldn’t wish them any harm. It’s possible he died of natural causes; let’s hope that’s the case.

  7. From Gail:

    MSS, So very sorry you happened upon him. The death of animals, even pests, can effect us deeply. Wasn’t he beautiful?

  8. From Vertie:

    That is sad and disturbing. I hope he didn’t suffer. I know you do too.

  9. From Annie in Austin:

    Finding dead mice or birds in my garden is unpleasant but with cats and owls roaming around it isn’t mysterious. Raccoons are wary, largish carnivores – finding one dead without explanation must be very upsetting, MSS. Of course we know you wanted it just to quit trashing your pond – not die.

    Maybe someone in your neighborhood has been using warfarin for rodents? Raccoons and dogs can be poisoned if they eat mice that have eaten the bait.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  10. From Diana - Austin:

    I’m so sorry — that is indeed a sad sight and I know you must be disturbed by it. We live in a precarious balance with the wildlife in our gardens, but like you, I just want everyone to get along and not bother one another.

  11. From Pam/Digging:

    That is strange, isn’t it? It looks as if he fell off the ladder, based on his position, though I don’t see how that could have killed him.

    Jenny, yes, vultures do clean up in the in-town neighborhoods. And they look quite large on the sidewalks too.

  12. From Lori, Austin TX:

    This has happened to me as well. Back when I moved in and had an ugly cinderblock “goldfish pond” in the backyard, I walked outside one afternoon and saw the exact same sight next to the pond. No signs of trauma, and the raccoon was only dead long enough that it still looked like it was sleeping. It’s unnerving.

  13. From Steve Mudge(Fort Worth):

    Sorry for the poor raccoon. I’d be a little wary of disease–ie, rabies, bubonic plague, etc. I would call the city to remove it, if possible; they may want to test it…?

  14. From compostinmyshoe Charleston, SC:

    Back to the earth he goes, just as we all should….the natural cycle of life……

  15. From mga, Austin:

    Poor critter. I think poisoned animals look more agonized in death than this guy does. Although I know you don’t live on a busy street, I’m sure you get the occasional speeder and I would guess he was hit by a car. Not run over, just bumped and maybe thrown hard enough to get internal injuries. He made it that far and no farther. On fall drives in the country, I’ve often been appalled at the number of dead raccoons along the road. You don’t see them other times of year — maybe the onset of cooler weather makes them focus on fattening up to the exclusion of being careful. I also think an animal sick enough to die would not die so quickly that it would be caught in the open, but it still makes sense to be cautious about handling it.

  16. From linda:

    Poor thing. Raccoons are such beautiful, and potentially dangerous creatures.

  17. From Yolanda Elizabet:

    Not something that most of us would like to find in our gardens, such a sad thing to come upon unexpectedly.

    I don’t use poison myself, not against any vegetable or animal.

  18. From renee, austin:

    You’ve honored your enemy by posting his photo so that the garden community can comment on his passing. An online memorial of sorts.

  19. From Philip Bewley San Francisco:

    Oh, The poor thing.
    They can be troublesome, but I do think they are beautiful creatures and I appreciate that would be shock to find.
    Best regards,

  20. From Bob Pool:

    I would think he may have been hit by a car and that is as far as he got before he succumbed to his injuries. Did you check his limbs to see if they were broken or possibly his back.

    I don’t think you would have to worry about any sickness as it looks too healthy for that. And almost any poison will have an animal slobbering at the mouth and they die with a horrid and pained expression on their face.

    I hope you at least ran your fingers through it’s hair as it’s a sensation that few get to experience. Quite fine feeling hair.

    I’m sorry your gardening nemesis came to an untimely demise. I’m sure there are others that will carry on.

  21. From Katherine in Las Vegas:

    From your pictures, I thought the ladder fell on him! Did you bury him?

  22. From Bonnie:

    I’m with Katherine. I thought the ladder fell on him.

  23. From Angelina:

    When I was growing up we had chickens and the raccoons would periodically make a meal of our George, or Molly, or some other bird. Although the carnage was vivid and distressing my parents managed somehow to encourage me to recognize that it was natural for them to do so and to hate them would be misguided.

    You can be completely annoyed and angered by the ravaging of wild animals in your environment but still respect them and not be happy when they die.

    Aren’t there lots of cultures that incite one to respect one’s adversaries?

    When I took fencing (many years ago) every encounter had to begin by acknowledging your adversary with a salute, a nod of respect.

    I feel that for our earthly pests as well.

    Good bye raccoon.

    They really are amazing animals.

    I never would have thought you killed him.

    Poor guy.

  24. From our friend Ben in Pennsylvania:

    Gack! Watch out for rabies, MSS!!! You’d better wear disposable gloves when you bury him. RIP raccoon! Much as we hate their eating our cat food, goldfish, and birdseed, we don’t want them dying on us, either. Sorry it happened to you!

  25. From Gen in Arcata, CA:

    So sorry you had to find him like that! I too have a strained relationship with the raccoons who pester our chickens and wallow in our pond, breaking my lilies – but I don’t wish them dead, either. Just for them to find a new place to hang out.

  26. From Anne:

    Aw, its a sad sight and i can imagine it was a shock to come across it. I think if the ladder had fallen on him hard enough to kill him, you would have seen evidence of trauma. Most likely he was sick or old, but maybe he felt that your garden was a safety zone where he could retreat to.

  27. From Susan, Minnesota:

    Last week my daughter and I came across a young raccoon nearly dead just outside our gate to the woods. He wasn’t visibly injured and the only explanation I could think of was that he had fallen from the tree and been internally injured. A few days later, a biologist friend told me that it was likely distemper, which is very common among raccoons. Fortunately, my dogs are up to date on vaccinations.)

  28. From Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening:

    Rabies was my first thought, too, though I know this post is history by now.