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Rosemary Cooney is fascinating

Larry Woody • Jul 19, 2017 at 8:30 AM

I probably shouldn’t tell my hunting buddies, but I’ve got a pet raccoon.

She’s not a “pet” in the sense of being confined – she’s free to come and go as she pleases. Back in the spring she wandered up from the creek in our back yard to mooch goodies from our bird feeder.

I began feeding her bread scraps, first tossing them to her at a distance, then enticing her closer and closer. Now she will stand on her haunches and take the bread out of my hand with her ladylike paws.

She also likes grapes and watermelon.

I named her Rosemary Cooney.

You can see the intelligence in her big bright eyes.

I told my buddy Clarence Dies about her. He said if I run short of coons there’s some that are raiding his sweet-corn patch that I’m welcome to.

I realize that for farmers raccoons can be pests. The same goes for city folk whose garbage cans are tipped over by the masked bandits during midnight raids.

Still, I find them fascinating critters.

Coons have been foraging in our backyard for years. The main lure is a bird-feeder that sits on the deck railing. They consider it a coon-feeder.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency advises against feeding coons, noting that they sometimes carry various viruses and diseases. Well, so do birds – their hygiene is much worse than raccoons’ – and yet people feed them.

I’d rather have a coon on my back porch than a flock of starlings.

It’s against TWRA regulations to capture and confine a coon, and I agree with the rule. But there’s no regulation against feeding one.

A few years ago a man in Gallatin nicknamed “Roonrippy” ran afoul of the TWRA regulation when he posted a video of himself and his pet coon Rebecca. It wasn’t just that Coonrippy had a pet coon that was so eye-catching – it was the fact that he was showering with her.

I enjoy feeding my little ring-tailed bandit, but I draw the line at inviting her into a bubble bath.

The TWRA, alerted by the video, made Roonrippy release Rebecca. I assume they remain close.

Some coon trivia:

+ In 1971 the raccoon was designated Tennessee’s State Animal. A coon appears on the TWRA logo.

+ In most portraits Davy Crockett is wearing a wildcat-hide hat, not a coonskin cap.

+ Colonel Cas Walker, “The Ol’ Coon Hunter,” gave Dolly Parton and the Everly Brothers their big break on his 1950’s Knoxville TV show.

+ Contrary to popular myth, coons don’t “wash” their food before eating it.

+ Raccoons are so tough they can often defeat a coon-hound in a fair fight, and are known to lure pursuing hounds into deep water and drown them.

Rosemary Cooney is a nursing mom, with a den in a hollow tree down on the creek. We haven’t seen her young’uns, but maybe eventually she’ll bring them along for a visit.

My wife tolerates Cooney, although she doesn’t share my fascination with her. If I want to invite a coon over for a snack, she doesn’t object. However, she says she draws the line at possums.

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