Living With Raccoons
Sharing Space with Raccoons
In the cities, we have a shared space agreement with raccoons. They live over the hedge defining our garbage as prime steak and we live indoors just barely aware that they're out there. But at the cottage, it's a whole different experience.
In the woods, it's their territory. We peek in and watch them in the trees or scuttling about in the ground, often as family groups, and understand ourselves as intruders. Maybe, more like sharers of the territory.
The raccoons poke about in the endless pursuit of food and that's where the fun begins.
Do You Have Raccoons in Your Area?
Mom Raccoon Trying Hard to Get the Seeds
Mom Raccoon at Work
In the picture, Mom is clearly trying to beef up to feed her new family living up the tree. She's a bit scrawny and she is defining anything edible as fair game including bird food. Look at that face. In there is a clear statement of don't mess with me. Your feeder full of sunflower seeds is history.
So, here she is poking at our feeder in mid-morning. Usually, raccoons are nocturnal so I was surprised to see Mom Raccoon at this time of day. She could see us through the window but that did not stop her. She must have been very hungry and probably had several kits depending on her.
Look at those Raccoon Paws
Powerful Raccoon Paws
Here she is, powerful paws in action. Those paws have more nerve endings than our human hands. As such, raccoons depend on their sense of touch making them very adept at night. And those masks. Reminds me of what I have read about these creatures.
Because of those masks, the raccoons figure prominently as totems among the North American first nations. The raccoons are powerful symbols, believed to enhance the sense of touch, adaptability, cunning in avoiding danger and finding food.
Symbols Significant to Native Americans
Raccoons as Powerful Totems
Bright and lively, smart, persistent and able to satisfy itself with what the moment offers, the raccoons are just the symbols to enable the North American tribes to survive. From such a totem, the native North Americans believe one can get the gift of touch, able to see even in the dark and cunning and persistence in the acquisition of food and the evasion of danger.
Though often portrayed as a trickster or mischief maker in legends, some North American tribes know that such trickery is often applied to acquiring food or avoiding danger or just harassing foreigners in their houses.
Do you like feeding raccoons?
Should we encourage feeding raccoons?
Raccoon Visit - Showing Off Her Kits
Raccoons Remember Kindness
A friend told me about a mother raccoon she once fed regularly. As it was pregnant, my friend thought she is in dire need of supplement. The raccoon would come regularly to her back door where she would give her food.
One day, the raccoon just stopped coming. So, although she wondered what could have happened to it, she eventually forgot about her. But one early spring morning, my friend heard tapping and sounds from her back door. She went out to check and to her surprise, there was Mom raccoon with her kits.
My friend figured that Mom Raccoon came to show off her kits. She was really touched. Unhappily, my friend moved so she never saw the kits grow up but now, when she sees raccoons, her heart goes out to them.
Raccoons at the Bird Feeder
Raccoons can test your patience
Raccoons, though, can really test your patience especially in cities where they sometimes do tremendous damage like taking over your garage or your attic. I just read a news story from Canada's capital city of Ottawa of a man facing charges because of the injuries he caused the raccoons. What a doofus. All he had to do was move his stereo to the attic and play Twisted Sister or ZZTop at full blast. The raccoons have better taste than we do and they'll leave.
When I think of the mischiefs the raccoons do regularly at the cottage, I also get angry but Grumpy always reminds me that for these raccoons, what they do is a matter of survival. While I love my feeders, I have to look at this from the raccoons' point of view. They must love the sweet nectar from my hummingbird feeder as they empty it each night. I am still upset from when they shattered my new hummingbird feeder. But the picture of them riding the feeder from the tree to the ground does make me smile.
Raccoon Revenge - Or Staking its Feeding Territory
Raccoon Revenge or Marking her Territory?
Grumpy once vented his frustration at the raccoons by putting Vaseline on the feeder pole. That night we watched the raccoon come. Through the glass door, we watched her confidently scrabble up the pole to get at the feeder. First try, front end went up, back in slowly skidded down. Second try, extra effort went into the back end but with the same result. It was hilarious from the inside. She turned around and glared at us! She kept trying but she just could not make it to the top.
The next morning, we found mounds of raccoon poo on our flower pot and right at our doorstep. Maybe it is marking its feeding territory but to us, it was raccoon revenge.
Raccoons Opening Refrigerators
Off with a Loaf of Bread
I have read before that some raccoons go in homes and get into fridges. Well, it happened to us last summer. We have always left our boat house door open and so far until last summer, it has been left undisturbed. This summer, the raccoons finally got into the boat house fridge. Good thing, it was filled with drinks and just a loaf of bread so the loaf was all it enjoyed. Since then, we always put heavy things in front of the fridge.
Watch these raccoons - Smart and Interesting Animals
Who knows what they do at night in the cottage. I am sure they have a ball. They do work hard though to get at the feeder hoping it would fall down so they could have a feast. But I bet you they have fun as well. Raccoons are capable of making at least 50 different kinds of sounds so you will hear them.
Interesting Things About Raccoons
Know them better
Given that the raccoons are there to stay close to us, I decided to read up on them and well, discovered some interesting things about them.
1. Raccoons are omnivores. They eat almost anything those powerful paws can get but they are mostly fond of water creatures like crayfish, frogs, fish and snail. They also eat mice, insects, eggs, fruits and plants. But in cities, raccoons eat mostly garbage.
2. Raccoons tend to be solitary except females with young. They only pair up during the breeding season which reaches a peak in March to April. They also change dens every few days with no predictable pattern.
3. Females can have 1-7 kits or cubs in early summer after a 65-day gestation.
4. Raccoon kits, in their first two months, often stay up top a tree hole. They only come down when they are ready to forage for food. They stay in the Mother's home range during their first winter.
5. Raccoons can rotate their hind feet 180 degrees making them great climbers and able to go down trees head first.
6. Raccoons in the northern parts like Canada, sleep in their dens in the winter so they eat much in the summer to gain body fat.
7. Raccoons are capable of making at least 50 different sounds like growls, hisses, snorts, and purr. Sometimes, they sound like a sleeping Grumpy.
8. Raccoons create toilet areas (like our doorstep) away from their nesting places.
9. Average life span in the wild is from 2 to 3 years. Raccoon predators include cougars, bobcats, coyotes, and dogs. For the kits, large owls and eagles prey on them.
Raccoons and Us Wonder about Each Other - Staring at Each Other Through the Glass
In the city, it's a bit of a take no prisoners war but at the cottage, both the raccoons and us peer through the window and wonder what on earth the folks on the other side of the glass are up to.
Our Continuing Raccoon Relationship - Guess Who's Smarter?
Guess Who's Smarter in the Battle with Raccoons?
We still get regular deposits of poo at our doorstep. It seems that raccoons have very good memories so I think we will have to live with this.
Each year is a battle to make sure no food is lying around where the raccoons can get at. We make sure the barbecue is clean. We do not throw food outside even fruit peels.
We take the necessary precautions but this relationship will continue to unfold as our home is in this particular raccoon's home range and on balance, she's smarter than we are.
Mom Raccoon in Relaxation - Getting Ready for the Long Winter
The Raccoon Battle and the Fun Continues
Mum relaxing on the trees for a long winter before it starts all over again in the next spring. And the battle continues and the fun as well.
© 2013 Mary Norton