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This is the ongoing story of Heidi and friends, raccoons and the occasional opossum who frequent my backyard wildlife buffet.
This is the time when we normally observe 'winter timeout', the time when the raccoon eat less for a variety of reasons including: lower metabolism in cold weather and much lower nutritional needs since they aren't nursing right now. This time of year I rarely see the raccoons as the forest is usually more than adequate to fill their needs. Unfortunately, in late fall of 2010 the forestry service did a controlled burn in the forest behind my house, the forest that includes the raccoons' habitat. That plus the fact that we are having an extremely cold winter this year unlike anything I've witnessed in my lifetime, with daily temps running 15-20 degrees below normal according to meteorologists, has apparently made it difficult for the raccoons to find enough food this winter. Thus they have been showing up quite frequently.
This winter the raccoons, 5 of them including Heidi, her 3 kits from 2010 now almost grown, and another, slightly smaller youngster, ID unknown, have actually begun sitting around my back door waiting for me, something I've never seen before in winter. In summer when the days are long and the nursing moms are so hungry and exhausted they often hang around on the patio in the afternoon in various manners of repose while waiting for me to serve dinner, but they never did so in winter - until now. They are actually quite cute sitting out there, often huddled together, sitting upright on the door facing like teddy bears their backs against the door. They look so adorable - and so sure I can be counted on to show up with the grub.
The picture below is of Heidi eating out on the patio, the somewhat messy patio I'm planning to clean someday. Behind her is my garden card turned on end so as not to collect water and a large potted tree along with leaves and debris blown in by storms, tracked in by critters, and fallen from trees including potted patio trees. She is not as fat as she appears in the photo. Remember, it's COLD out. When cold, raccoon hair stands on end to better insulate the body against heat loss. Thus, like someone in Siberia or the Arctic wearing a huge, thick fur, the raccoons now appear 2-3 times actual size. Heidi looks almost pregnant here, but she isn't. This photo was taken back in late Nov or early Dec when she 1st started showing up on the patio for dinner.