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First Citizens

They were here first

It's far too early in the morning to be awake and writing but here I am anyway, and as I was sitting here browsing the newspaper, looking for things to write about, an answer came through my window. From out in the dark I hear a low chirping sound, which is not a bird given the time, and for a second I wonder, then I realize it's those masked bandits Racoons.

I'd guess I have to blame Stirling North for my love affair with raccoons. Ever since I read Rascal as a kid I've thought them to be the most fascinating of critters. Brave with distinct characters and very intelligent. They get a bad reputation for their habit of stealing garbage and living in people's garages, but to me that just exemplifies their adaptibility: how many other wild animals have been able to live so readily in cities? They've got a survivor instinct that makes that T.V. show look like the joke it is.

How many of us could withstand the mass destruction of our habitat and deep on living through the radical change? Or overcome hysteria induced attempts at extermination based on the premise that rumored cases of "racoon rabies " was making it's way up from Northern New York into South Eastern Ontario via racoons catching lifts underneath transport trucks? This so called rabies scare being a case of mistaken identity (racoons get a type of illness that seems to mimic some rabies symptoms) didn't seem to phase the red neck lunk heads who would look for any excuse to blast away at an animal.

Racoons aren't the only four legeds who share the cities with us, just the most prevalent. Aside from the usual suspects of small rodents, there have been reports of Coyotes in Toronto, (more likely wild dogs, or coydogs a blending of coyote and dog) and I have seen in Kingston skunks, foxes, and the occasional deer that wanders in from the outskirts. The latter is happening less and less with the increased build up of the suburbs acting as barrier keeping the wild life at bay. Most people think of this as inconvenience not as a pleasure (I'd admit to some trepidation about sharing housing with a skunk: its their poor vision that makes them dangerous, they don't see anything until their right on top of it, and then they get startled, and well you know the result) but I love to be able to look out in my backyard and see a mamma raccoon and her kids washing their food in my bird bath.

Of course there is the variety of bird life in the skies over Kingston as well. For those people willing to lift their noses from the grindstone occasionally they can be treated to the sight of a variety of hawks soaring, turkey vultures swooping, and the occasional eagle or owl. There was one memorable occasion I remember witnessing a beautiful Snowy Owl perching on a downtown building, it's brilliant plumage a stark contrast to the dull brick surrounding it. I have had some birds take the concept of bird feeder a little too far, with sharpshin hawks grabbing a quick snack from amongst the feeding sparrows, but this has also led to the sight of a massive Coopers Hawk dissecting a bird of some sort in my backyard.

But as usual I find myself in a minority when it comes to expressing this opinion. Most people view any sort of animal life as a pest, an intrusion into their carefully ordered world not as a gift to be cherished. I'm sure if they could they'd sit out back with a shot gun to put a bullet into the raccoon rummaging through their garbage or the skunk waddling around the neighbourhood. To those of you of that mind set I'd like to offer this little reminder. They were here first. We are the intruders.

Not that I'd expect anyone to pay attention to that, we still don't recognize the rights of the people who were here before us, so what's the likelihood of us doing it for the others who came first. It is interesting that the people who we refuse to recognize treated their fellow citizens with a respect that we can't even find in ourselves to treat members of our species who we live side by side with. Rudeness and selfishness seem to be our lifestyle choices more and more, so any sort of compassion for others is probably too much to ask for.

cheers gypsyman
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