Even though those masked bandit creatures cause such mischief, they look so adorable; especially when they are babies! The raccoon is a trickster spirit in many North American tribes and this seems to have been carried through into cartoons too. I guess it is because they are amongst the most intelligent of wild animals, which probably helps us relate to them and anthropomorphize them more than some animals. Their footprints look like a tiny human footprint too and those tiny dexterous “hands” mean they can do all kinds of things we can do – especially unlocking and getting into places we would rather they didn’t!
We had a raccoon that ran off with our bottle of multi vitamins. He discarded it when he was unable to figure out the childproof lock on the bottle and get inside! It didn’t figure out the opening, but if he had, studies have shown that they can remember the solution to a task for up to three years. Raccoons often examine items, rub them and sometimes remove unwanted parts. There is a myth that they wash their food, but the tactile sensitivity of their paws is increased underwater, so they often appear to be washing their food while they examine it under water.
They can live for 20 years in captivity but only live about 3 years in the wild. They fall prey to wolves and coyotes and foxes and great horned owls when they are younger. However, predation is not a significant cause of death. Distemper is the most frequent natural cause of death, which can kill most of a local population at times. Traffic is another large factor and starvation during our long and cold winters is significant. It is not unusual for only half of the young born in one year to survive a full year. We found a dead raccoon down by the lake when we first got the cottage. I have no idea what the cause of death was, but we were amazed at how quickly it vanished. We intended to deal with it, but ran out of time. The following weekend there was virtually no trace of it. I guess many other creatures had been feasting throughout the week!
Raccoons like to live near water because a large portion of their food is frogs, crayfish, turtles and insects that live in the water. As already mentioned, they also like to hunt for snake and turtle eggs and will also prey upon the nests of ground-nesting birds. In reality they will eat everything they can get their hands on. They also eat large amounts of grains, acorns, other nuts and fruit. Ever adaptable, we have also had one at home remove the lid from the garbage can and run off with stale bread!
We were enchanted to find two little kits on a tree by the lake. We didn’t see mother, but I am sure she was close by. They froze when they saw me and even when I went back into the cottage they stayed where they were for a long time. Eventually they moved and unfortunately I didn’t see them go. They are extremely agile climbers, but because they are flat-footed, like humans, they can’t run very fast. They have quite a comical waddle because of this and because their back legs are longer than their front legs.
Babies stay with their mothers for close to a year. By six weeks old they can walk, run and climb very well. I guess these were not much older than that because it was June 20th, so around the time new babies are born. We saw them during the day, but they are most active at night and can be quite noisy. They have a huge number of different sounds that they can make. Thankfully we haven’t heard them at night!