Sat 17 Sep 2011
What do you call a group of raccoons? They’re sometimes called a nursery, but the most common name is a gaze.
Three raccoon kits squeeze into the birdbath on my deck to clean their paws after eating .
Of course, there are many raccoon tails in Marin County. The Marin Humane Society, for example, rescued a baby raccoon from a gutter’s drainpipe in the Hamilton area of Novato Thursday afternoon.
The trapped raccoon was discovered by children who heard its cries, The Marin Independent Journal and Bay City News both reported.
It took animal control officers, who used a plumbing camera, two hours to locate the approximately month-old raccoon and then pull it out to safety.
The baby raccoon is now at the WildCare wildlife rehabilitation center in San Rafael.
Here eight raccoons — two mothers, each with three kits — dine on honey-roasted peanuts on my deck. A ninth raccoon, a solitary male adult, will show up after this gaze has left.
Possums are found throughout West Marin wherever ponds, creeks, marshes, and even drainage ditches provide riparian habitat. West Marin’s possums originated in the Deep South where “common opossums” are commonly called possums, thanks to a linguistic phenomenon known as aphesis. Calling mosquitoes “skeeters” is another example of aphesis.
“The common opossum,” writes Point Reyes Station biologist Jules Evens in The Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula, is “the only marsupial native to North America [but] is not native to Point Reyes or the Pacific Coast. After the first known introduction into California at San Jose about 1900 (for meat, delicious with sweet potatoes), opossums spread rapidly southward: by 1931 they were common on the coastal slope from San Francisco Bay south to the Mexican border. Point Reyes avoided the onslaught until about 1968.”
Another introduced species often found in the fields next to Mitchell cabin, Equus caballus.
They’re called Arabians in the sign on the pasture gate, but I doubt a one of them has ever seen the Mediterranean. This being the Far West, “cayuse” (rhymes with “dye use”) would seem more appropriate. Surely you remember Willie Nelson singing Don’t Fence Me In: “On my cayuse let me wander over yonder/Till I see the mountain rise.”
“Cayuse” in reference to a horse comes from the name of the Cayuse people of the Pacific Northwest. Sort of like Belgian referring to both a people and a chestnut-colored draft horse.
Canada geese flying over the hill behind Mitchell cabin.
Hundreds of Canada geese winter annually on Tomales Bay, on Nicasio Reservoir, and at Bolinas Lagoon. Along with these snowbirders, a year-round population of Canada geese is developing in West Marin.
Many of the year-rounders are descendants of geese that people with a surplus goose or two dropped off at the pond in front of the Cheese Factory on the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, beginning back in the 1970s.