Living the Wild Life
Those Rascally Raccoons
by Doreen S Damm
Well nicknamed the masked bandits of the campground, they have slowly become a regular sight in our neighborhoods as more of them lose their natural habitat and resort to the free lunch inside our trash cans. My mother-in-law tells a story of camping in Hillsborough State Park when my husband was a young boy, recalling how their campsite was raided by these cute little mammals. It seems they had a craving for Italian food and helped themselves to a spaghetti dinner. I also have memories of a raccoon covert op on our bait bucket, telltale signs of wet paw prints surrounding what was to be bait for our day of fishing along the banks of the river. Even now, in my wildlife garden, a heavy duty metal tool cabinet meant to keep the squirrels from chewing their way into the birdseed has become a favorite target. These clever guys have figured out how to pull on the door to bend the metal braces back past the lock. I only wish I had a night camera to catch them running away with the seed container tucked under one arm.
Needless to say, living adjacent to conservation land, we have never had problems with raccoons. They have become more accustomed to being out during the day as they learn to live in our human habitats. This is not a sign that they are rabid, just that they want a snack. It is always best not to feed them intentionally. Never put human food in the bird feeders. Feed your pets indoors and keep lids secure on trash cans. Be aware of the signs of rabies and never try to approach, tame or feed them by hand.
It has been a true delight to watch the many raccoon families visiting our garden. By following safe, observe-only guidelines you too can see past their criminal mischief and enjoy the occasional visit to your garden.
Learn more about raccoons at http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/mammals/land/raccoon/
Doreen S. Damm
Nature Photographer &