Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Who is this rare creature?

Photo by Frederic Reichel

Here is a letter I received today:

During a recent visit to AMNH I read about your book "Central Park in the Dark", and remembered that in May, 2008 while walking on Central Park South at the southern end of Central Park in the early afternoon, I saw this creature, which I assumed is a raccoon. In all the years I lived in N.Y. and in all my visits over the past 30 years, I never saw a raccoon, and didn't know they existed in the city. I thought you might be interested in this photo. [see above].
Fredric Reichel
Santa Monica, CA

Here is my reply:

Dear Frederic Reichel,

Thanks for sending that nice photo. Yes indeed, that mysterious creature is a raccoon. We have quite a few of them in Central Park. They may not always be evident on the park's periphery,. But if you walk into the park on a nice spring or summer day, you are almost certain to see one--or two, or perhaps ten. The population of raccoons in Central Park may exceed a hundred!

If you scroll through the archives of this page, you'll find many, many pictures of raccoons -- they are one of our photographers' favorite subjects. And though they're generally considered quite adorable, workers who must keep the park clean are not that fond of these bandit-like critters. That's because they're very good at knocking over trash baskets and then scattering the garbage far and wide, looking for food scraps.

By the way, the first chapter of Central Park in the Dark is all about raccoons.

Sincerely, etc.

PS Why was Mr. Reichel reading about my book at the AMNH? As I did last year, I'm giving a talk at the Museum next month, this time in conjunction with the book's paperback publication. Here's an excerpt from the museum's catalog for July:

Central Park in the Dark with Marie Winn
  • Wednesday, July 8
  • 7 pm
  • Linder Theater, first floor
  • $15 ($13.50, members, students, seniors)

Explore the little-known world of Central Park’s nocturnal wildlife with naturalist Marie Winn, author of Central Park in the Dark: More Mysteries of Urban Wildlife. Learn about the bats, owls, raccoons, spiders, crickets, and slugs that become active in the park after dark and discover where daytime creatures spend the night. After an illustrated talk, follow Winn into the park to see some of these elusive creatures. A book signing is included.

Below, a link to the catalog, if you want to get tickets online: