Here we have that most adaptable of omnivores, the Common Raccoon (Procyon lotor), a creature that can be seen in most settings, from the very rural & woodsy to the absolutely urban. We live between two extremes here in Hamburg, NY… busy, busy street almost at our front door, neighbors close on both sides, & large expanses of field, thicket, woodland, with steeply-banked streams & even a small, elderly Lutheran cemetery in the back. As a result of all this, I am always amazed that we so seldom see (or detect the presence of) raccoons. While they are considered nocturnal, I have seen them during the day in any number of settings all over this part of the country & in Canada.
SO… I was surprised to see this rather scruffy-looking masked marauder nosing around in our back lawn… first saw him or her right behind the house when I opened the door in search of the resident squirrels & chipmunks & rabbits (& bluejays & cardinals & robins & titmice & chickadees… I’m out of breath now, just thinking of this menagerie on a hot, humid day…), watched him sniff along the house foundations, both here & next door & disappear, then saw him again a few minutes later. By this second sighting, I had retrieved my camera from upstairs, so I did manage to catch this one & only shot of Racketty-Packetty making a bee-line across the lawn. He was moving pretty fast, so by rights, he should be blurrier. But hey… I’m not complaining. I think he acquits himself rather well, & you can’t beat that strutting pose! Saw him again under our stacked-up canoes, & an hour later, had one more very quick view.
So there’s the evidence… smart cookies, these see-all, eat-all, savvy animals. They are highly intelligent & have singularly retentive memories. In experiments, raccoons have, with their highly sensitive, hand-like forepaws, picked padlocks within ten minutes, have been able to repeat the process instantly, & have retained the ability for three years! When I was a kid, I regularly vacationed in the Adirondacks with my aunt & uncle, & anything left outside was fair game for the raccoons, including metal biscuit tins with TIGHT-FITTING lids. We occasionally observed them prying up the lids with alacrity… could open them faster & more dexterously than we could.
And one time (the only other time I remember seeing one here in the 38 years we’ve lived in this house), a lone raccoon scrambled onto our roof, under cover of darkness, in the dead of winter. It was a cold night, & there were several inches of snow on the ground. This critter crawled up onto our brick chimney & settled down to get warmed up, then apparently just wandered away. In any case, he didn’t end up in the fireplace….