Donald B. McCormick, Ph.D
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                             Some Further Encounters with Nature's Critters



In Oak Ridge, TN: During my junior high and high school days, I was fortunate to be educated in a formal way by good teachers in a government-financed system that was established to please a significant population of educated people who were recruited to develop the Atomic Bomb, and in an informal way by the flora and fauna that surrounded Oak Ridge which had been built deliberately in the remote hills of East Tennessee. The result of this, and tolerant parents, was to have an appreciation for wild things as well as some wonderful pets, both cats and dogs.

     Among the wild creatures that we acquired was an adult raccoon. My brother Bill and I were with our father on an outing in the nearby woods one night when we heard a howling commotion and were soon overtaken by a man dragging a wet burlap sack, with a bunch of dogs following. We were told that he was training his dogs to hunt 'coon from the scent trail, never mind the pain felt by the 'coon in being so treated. In a rare moment of concern for our feelings, my father talked the man into parting with the 'coon still in the sack, so we took the squirming contents home. We kept the new pet in a wire house built above the ground in our backyard. The raccoon was a large female who quickly became tame with the attention we lavished upon her. Within a couple of weeks she had made friends with our dog Trouble and could be let loose in the yard. Shortly after demonstrating that she could forgive her recent mistreatment by humans and dogs, she gave birth to three fine babies. We raised all with crayfish, mixed vegetables, some fruit, occasional milk, and bread - all with plenty of water, both to soak her food and to play with. These cute and smart animals learned to climb about the backyard trees, let themselves in and out of their tree house, and romp with Trouble. Time came, however, when we knew we should let the whole raccoon family go free in the woods away from home.

We also kept some opossums for a few weeks each.  They had been shaken from trees in the woods at night.  Dad was bitten by one large and surly critter, so their residence was limited. I also recall that we bought home a sizeable water snake, but when we could not see any evidence that it would eat, this too was freed in a nearby pond.

In Ithaca NY: My adventures with raccoons were renewed when  friends, who were licensed to foster wildlife, asked us to take care of three baby raccoons who had been rescued from a barn fire.  The family was going on a previously planned vacation and they entrusted the three to our care for two weeks. We started them on enriched milk and then saw to their weaning. These active youngsters were all over the house and into everything. They were especially good at helping Jean wash greens and make beds. It was very hard to see them returned to their owners. Some cousins of the raccoons would occasionally visit our garage and check the garbage cans, but no more became household pets. By this time, our children helped us acquire sundry pets that included dogs, cats, birds (Buggie), lizards (African), and fish (Tropical), so we were never without someone needing to be fed and noticed.

In Scaly Mt., NC: After my retirement from Emory, we have spent much of our time in the wooded hills of North Carolina in the postal area of Scaly Mt. Here we have encountered some of natures native critters such as bear (Ursus americanus), deer (Odocoileus virginianus), bobcat (Lynx rufus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), opossum (Didelphis virginiana),  squirrels of the gray (Sciurus carolinensis), red (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), and flying (Glaucomys volans) types, birds, and snakes. To mention a bit about each category, I shall begin with the bear. A large male infrequently checks our bird feeders; the rascal tore up part of the screened lower porch and a feed storage box in the carport, so we are more cautious when he comes by. Deer are now rare as they are decimated by locals who sickly enjoy their "blood sports". The bobcat is even rarer. A large one crossed our driveway during an afternoon walk with the dogs (which I hastily brought back to the house), though a very young one sat in the side yard and admired birds near the feeders. Their ear markings and patterns in general are beautiful. I had one year fed a night-visiting raccoon, but he and I were discouraged from pursuing the relationship when others got tired of his messes and the present "girls" (the mini-schnauzers Tazzie and Chancy) made too loud a ruckus whenever he/she appeared. So I must take my urge to feed something and apply it to an opossum who is small, hungry, and in need of help (mine, of course). The diverse squirrels are both a pleasure and a bit of a nuisance. The larger gray ones are aggressive customers at the bird feeders; the smaller red ones are quarrelsome but cute, and the flying squirrels, which are night feeders, top the list of my affections with their large, liquid eyes and long whiskers. Finally I should state we have numerous birds including owls and hawks (and an Audubon connection) though no more woodcock due to "development", and occasional snakes that include timber rattlers. It pays to be careful to look where one steps in our no-hunting, no-trespassing woods!