Jul
11
2006

Coming soon to a trashcan near you...

I was sitting on our front stoop tonight, talking to my mother on the phone, and a family of raccoons was out for a stroll. They came from somewhere on the Tilsner Carton Factory property, crossed at the corner, and made their way into a neighbor's front yard.

Right now is actually the peak time to see raccoon families in the city. Baby raccoons stay with their mothers until the fall, at least, and now they're old enough to leave their dens and accompany their mothers on nightly food foraging trips.

Raccoons: Courtesy SeattleYogi
Raccoons: Courtesy SeattleYogi

Raccoons are omnivores, eating everything from frogs to fish to insects to eggs, berries, vegetables, pet foods, and garbage. They're equally comfortable in wilderness or and dense urban areas. They're intelligent, resourceful, curious, and dextrous, and keeping them out can be a serious challenge.

This site has cool pictures of raccoons and their tracks.

Raccoons are fascinating to watch, but one note of caution: like many mammalian carnivores, they can be aggressive if cornered or threatened, and they can carry rabies. So be careful if you find one in your garage or on your back porch. Their wariness about humans is what keeps them and you safe, so don't feed them or otherwise encourage them to visit you. But enjoy watching from a distance. (I'm just glad that this troop wandered into Josh and Jenny's yard instead of ours!)

Our summer phenology feature--which talks about raccoons as well as other species--will be online soon.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

bryan kennedy's picture

This picture of raccoons got me wondering why their eyes glow like that in flash photographs.

Most nocturnal animals have a tapetum lucidum at the back of their eye. This is a layer of the eye that reflects light back into the retina. This allows them to see better in what most humans would consider complete darkness. When you shine a light in their eyes this layer causes a bright reflection. They aren't really glowing just reflecting.

While some mammals have a tapetum lucidum, humans don't. Now that would be a cool super power...night vision.

posted on Wed, 07/12/2006 - 11:17am

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