My raccoon friends
The raccoons used to climb the palm tree in the neighbor’s yard directly across the street from my apartment. I could watch them clumsily scale the tree each morning, letting the old branches fall down and making quite the ruckus. This continued on for several months until the homeowners had a tree trimmer come to remove the lower branches of the palm tree and the creatures retreated.
I would see them occasionally scamper across the street during my evening walks, running from one neighbor’s yard to the other in search of food and shelter. I believe they relocated into the center of the neighborhood where several older lots provided ample places to hide in the mature brush and bushes.
More about raccoons
Raccoons are a medium-sized mammal, weighing between 11 and 65 lbs. Raccoons are a member of the genus, “Procyon.” Their ancestors include the Ringtail cat and bears.
About the size of my large orange tabby cat, raccoons can be fierce predators when provoked. They are distinguished by their black eye mask, fluffy grey undercoat, and black ringed tail. Raccoons have a high degree of intelligence (just below that of a monkey) which has caused them to earn the title of being a pest in urban areas. Their dexterous and sensitive paws are perfectly adapted to lifting up trashcan lids and scouring around inside for any good leftovers.
Raccoons are omnivores which means they eat both plants and animals including insects, shellfish, eggs, fruit, berries, seeds, and small mammals. They also will eat cat or dog food if left out.
The downfalls of being wild
The lifespan of a wild raccoon isn’t long. Mother raccoons typically have 2-5 young which are born in the spring and are called “kits.” Survival rates for kits are very low and they are lucky to survive into adulthood.
In captivity, raccoons can live up to 20 years however in the wild they sadly live only 2-3 years. Many become the victim of hunting, auto incidences or disease. With a territory that can range up to 7.4 acres for females in urban areas, they’re at high risk of encountering humans and their vehicles.
Where are they now?
Within 6 months of first seeing the raccoon family, I was saddened to see two of the three raccoons hit by cars within a month of each other. It’s a horrible thing to see when you leave your house or come home at night.
I haven’t seen the last remaining raccoon in a while. I assume he/she is still in the neighborhood, scavenging for food and shelter but is now alone and without the companionship of friends or family members. I hope they will be able to live out the rest of their life in peace.
My hopes for the future of raccoons (and other wildlife)
One thing this raccoon family taught me was how few resources wild animals have to depend on. They are truly left to their own devices, with no permanent shelter or source of food. And with humans ever creeping into their habitats, they’re going to be the ones to lose.
Many diseases including distemper and rabies are common in wild species, as well as domesticated animals but are preventable through vaccination (which aren’t as easily provided to wild animals). We’ve made huge advances in preventing communicable diseases in humans over the two centuries and why not consider our nation’s wildlife. At the very least, we can all drive a little slower in residential areas because we never know which wildlife might be strolling down the road.
As more of us become enlightened and living in a humane economy, I hope our knowledge and empathy as a culture can help us to help more of our wild friends to live safely and in peace.