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Raccoons Shadow Our Summer Delights

Raccoons are much like our urban shadows, thriving on what we leave behind.
Raccoons Shadow Our Summer Delights
A raccoon foraging at twilight in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park

As the sun sets on summer park picnics and street fairs, masked eyes are watching from the tops of trees and other hidden places. Around dusk, they emerge to feast and forage, using their delicate hands with thumb-like digits to unfurl trash bags and crack open pizza boxes. These raccoons are much like our urban shadows, coming out to enjoy what we have left behind.

Raccoons are New York State’s most widespread animal, and within the five boroughs, they thrive in parks and neighborhoods, commonly moving between both. They were here long before the city sprung up with its beckoning dumpsters and mounds of edible detritus (“raccoon” is said to be derived from the Algonquian word arahkunem, referring to how they rub their hands together when eating). They are now considered synanthropes, animals that have learned to live alongside us. Like any longtime New Yorker, they are adaptable to change, living in the space available, whether it’s a tree trunk or an abandoned car hood. Primarily nocturnal, they can be spotted during the day nestled in the crooks of trees, balls of fur, with sometimes their ringed tail that makes up about a third of their body length hanging down.

Their exact number is unknown, as urban wildlife tends to be understudied. Think like a raccoon, though, and you will see them. Smart and resourceful, they know the trash cans that are most popular in the summer months when people fill the park lawns during the day and leave what they did not consume in toppling piles. Wander a park near you and notice our human patterns, where we like to gather, and what we can’t be bothered to take with us when twilight comes. Watch the forested areas as people trudge home to subways and buses with foldable chairs and blankets in hand, and you may see furry faces looking back, waiting for their moment in these summer delights.

Thanks to everyone who came out to our recent evening of NYC Microseasons at the Museum of the Moving Image! And especially we extend our appreciation to Terrence Hopkins, Georgia Silvera Seamans, and Tom McNamara who joined NYC Microseasons co-creator Erin Chapman to talk about the summer phenomena of fireflies, horseshoe crabs, mulberries, and fireworks.

As part of the event, we created a special NYC Microseasons Mid-Summer Almanac mini zine. If you weren’t able to join and would like a copy, we’re offering a handful for $5/each including shipping. Respond here if you’re interested or send us a DM on Instagram! The mini zine brings together some of our summer forecasts for the unnatural nature of the city.