I took my one and a half year old son to the toddler section of the Adventure playground in Central Park last summer and just as I was about to lower him into the sand pit all of the moms started to grab their kids and head to the exit. A little drizzle had started but it hardly seemed enough to justify the mass exodus. My confusion didn’t last long as a mother explained that a raccoon had entered what was heretofore a play space for tots. I looked around and sure enough she was right. There was a rather large raccoon sniffing around for his lunch at the far end of the playground.

Now I had just pushed my little guy for over a half a mile to get to the playground so I was reluctant to grab him and run. Nevertheless, I was wondering whether I should be hightailing it too? Was I being lazy or reasonable? I had always thought of raccoons as only being dangerous if they were cornered or you got between them and their garbage. I had seen raccoons in this area of the park before (ie, close to Sheep Meadow) and they had always just ignored the people. The raccoons collected the trash that people obligingly dropped day after day.

Soon a super nanny – not to be intimidated by a slow moving varmint – shooed it away by throwing some sand from the pit. Order was restored. Nevertheless, the shock seemed too much for most of the moms so my son had more or less had his run of the place.

In the past I’ve kept him out of the sand pit when it seemed like a scene from Lord of the Flies, but the raccoon never really looked that dangerous, even with his well-known criminal features.

Sure it’s a shock to see a raccoon as big as a medium sized dog in an urban area, but just like the pigeons, which rarely attack either, a healthy compromise seems to have been reached: We keep on feeding them and they won’t fly into the windshield.

As we left the playground my son tossed some of his snack on the ground. Normally I get a little annoyed at this defiant act, but today I realized that he was just doing his part to make sure the circle of life continued.



2 Responses to When a Raccoon Invades a Playground

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