Health in the Wild

I spotted a raccoon a couple of hours after daylight had broken. That was my first indication that something might not be right. The raccoon spotted me and remained very still on its rock behind some wild mustard. I stayed very still. After a few minutes the raccoon began grooming itself: licking the fur on its arms, licking its hands, and scratching a little.  I could see that this animal was not healthy: it had lost one eye and the other seemed clouded over, the skin under the fur on the nape of the neck was red and infected, there was a large gaping open wound or infection on the upper chest area. In addition, the ears had been torn and there was a scar on the raccoon’s mouth. This animal obviously has had a hard life and now it has wounds from mishaps or from diseases which may or may not heal. I’m adding this posting to show that nature is not always kind or pretty.

I found this raccoon in an area of one of our parks where I have seen coyotes. The coyotes have always been very healthy looking — maybe this is because they are young. The raccoon, on the other hand, was quite large, which indicates to me that it was older. Animals in the wild live much shorter lives than the same animals in captivity: aging, wear and tear, disease, dealing with predators and dealing with a limited food supply take their toll.

We humans are also subject to the same mishaps and diseases as other creatures, but we have excellent health care to compensate. In fact, I think most of us now think it is our birthright to live to be quite old. We all expect to retain functionality and live out our lives until the ripe old age of 80+ or 90. This is not true of wild animals who may rely only on the strength of their own bodies to heal themselves. When a mishap or disease occurs in nature, there is a slimmer chance for survival.

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