A friend on mine had a raccoon for a pet when she was a kid. The animal had been abandoned in plowed field as a baby and my friend’s mom bottle fed it and box trained it like a cat. It lived for 15 years before it died of natural causes. That’s as opposed to the family cat and dog hiring a hit skunk to take out the pet competition.
I thought that was pretty cool. Raccoons don’t have the power to creep me out like possums. I’m not crazy about them when we go camping. Their little hands are agile and what they can’t break into, their sharp teeth can chew through. We’re vigilant, usually, but I’ve been surprised at their ability to grocery shop through our dry boxes.
Raccoons are known for their intelligence since they can remember solutions to problems for years. Their dexterous hands and masked faces are the stuff that make myths and cartoons. The Virginia English who first saw them called by their Powhatan name “aroucun” which means one who scrubs with their hands. The name’s stuck.
Interesting note, Linnaeus the father of modern taxonomy put raccoons in the bear family and used the name Ursus Lotor (“washer bear”) to name them. Raccoons were given a genus of their own Procyon Lotor (“before dog washer”) a few years later when revisions were made to the taxonomy. Today, it’s believed that raccoons do share a close relation to bears but they also share a family relationship with weasels.
Raccoons can live up to 20 years in captivity. Their average lifespan in the wild is 3-4 years with hunters and cars being the main causes of raccoon death. They used to live in forested areas, but raccoons are adaptable and can live in virtually any habitat. They are considered pests to many homeowners.
That brings about the need to relocate raccoons on occasion.
Yesterday, Bob and I were on our way to have dinner with his daughter and her fiancée when a call came for help from Nicole. A mutual friend had set a Live Trap to catch a garbage can marauder and had captured a raccoon. He had gone out-of-town on a business trip and his wife was frantic. What was SHE supposed to do? She’d called Animal Control and they were going to euthanize the animal if they picked it up. What was the point of using a Live Trap if the animal was going to get killed anyway?
Bob asked, “What was the plan if her husband had been in town? Was he going to give it a lecture, tell it to sin no more, and set it free?”
It didn’t matter. Bob has a soft spot for small animals and little children. There was no way he would leave the raccoon in the cage for days waiting for our friend to get back into town. And he didn’t like the euthanizing idea, either. So we were going to be side tripping to pick up a trapped raccoon before dinner.
The captured animal looked embarrassed. Bob tried talking it up and reassuring it that he was going to release it as soon as he found a safe place for it. (“It’s okay, buddy. I’ll have you out of there in just a little bit. Awww. You’re an old guy. I’d pet you if I could. Look, Margaret. He’s got a spot of mange.”)
Our friend’s wife was desperately happy to see that someone (ANYONE) was going to take her trapped raccoon away. (“Oh, my God. I can’t believe that we caught that animal. I have food for it. Let me send it with food. I’ve got plenty of food. You aren’t going to kill it, right? The police were going to kill it. I don’t want it to be killed. I’ll go get the food. Do you think it will like food?”)
Bob drove us to a wildlife sanctuary just outside of Portland, opened the tail-gate, and set the food on the ground, all the time talking to his new friend. (“We’re here, old fellow. I’m just going to open the door and you can find a new home.)
The raccoon went aerial like Rocky the Flying Squirrel as soon as Bob opened the trap’s door. It banked to the left, feet skittered through the air. It raced down the fence line and darted in through a hole in the fence without a wave good-bye. I thought I could hear a faint “Adios, suckers!” as he ran through the brush.