Eighteen months ago, in January 2019, I found a dead, soggy raccoon in a bicycle path underpass at 7th Street along the Lake Merritt Drain while cycling home from a late night Krav Maga class. Naturally, I went back with some plastic bags and a waterproof backpack and carried the corpse home. I buried the raccoon in a big, galvanized planter box on our balcony, figuring Kierán and I could collect the bones in the future.
Well, it took a long time! The first time we tried to recover the skeleton, after about six or eight months, it was still a mess of flesh, fur and connective tissue. But now, this week, it was ready. Yesterday we dug out the bones (many of the tinier ones, such as phalanges and the tip of the tail, were lost or dissolved in the soil by bacteria and flesh-eating beetle larvae), washed them in a bucket, microwaved them to dry and sterilize them, and started studying them.
Using a handy guide to the bones of common North American mammals, Kierán began classifying them. We know our specimen was a male because it has a baculum. This was a large specimen, as its skull is bigger than the two other raccoon skulls we have here at home. One skull Kierán spotted earlier this year in a lakeside park here in Oakland — it has a suspicious .22 caliber-sized hole in it that makes us suspect it was trapped and executed, like many of the wild pigs whose skulls we’ve found on Mt. Diablo.