Such small hands

I love watching raccoons eat.  It’s the use of their paws like hands that fascinates me so.  It’s this dexterity that allows them to get into all sorts of mischief, from opening containers to unlatching windows.  It also gifts them with that most enviable of skills amongst mammals: climbing down head first.

This video is of a troublemaker.  It occurs to me only now that, after having watched her for some time, she lacks a significant fear of humans.  It’s that simple.  She has consistently been lacking in fear of me since she began visiting.  I try not to interact with them except for standing on the patio watching when the opportunity presents itself, yet she always shows an interest in me, in what I’m doing, and shows no significant distress at my presence.  I can talk, walk, go in and out, and she carries on with no more than a glance in my direction.

Her lack of fear makes her dangerous to the uninitiated.  She readily approaches me, making me think she already associates people with eating opportunities, and that no doubt will cause problems for someone in the future.  Not me, but someone.

I captured this video of her at the very onset of dusk one evening.  After having spilled water in the cat food bowl, I tossed the wet food over the patio fence with full knowledge that it wouldn’t survive long with all the wildlife traipsing through.  A few short hours later, the open windows allowed me to hear a bit of crunching outside, so off I went to see who was eating.

I stepped up to the fence and knelt down to get a good view.  She glanced at me before returning to her snack.  I turned the camera on, placed it against the fence to try and steady it, and proceeded to shoot some video.

She was about three feet (a meter) away from me.  You can see how scared of me she is, right?  She looks at me a few times.  That’s fear, right?  Not in her case.

In fact, I stopped the video when I thought she was leaving (when she walks out of the frame at the end), but that’s when she turned and came right to me.  Not good.

Anyway, throughout her quick indulgence notice the tap-tap-tap tactile approach to dinner as she feels the ground for tidbits.  That always puts a smile on my face as I watch raccoons eat.

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  1. Obviously this is a raccoon (a.k.a. common raccoon, northern raccoon, washer bear, or coon; Procyon lotor).
  2. I know she’s a female because she’s been around for about three years, I’ve learned to recognize her, and each year she spends part of her time coming through with children in tow.
  3. This video was shot with a little point-and-shoot camera, so the quality isn’t great.  Also, I had the white balance set wrong, and I know absolutely nothing about editing video, so the best I can do is WYSIWYG.
  4. The title is a nod to my favorite e.e. cummings poem.

9 thoughts on “Such small hands”

  1. That girl is ever on the alert, eyes watching and ears listening, but those little paws never stop patting and touching in their search for the goodies. She may be wary, but she sure isn’t going to be hungry too! Thanks for the humorous uplift!

    1. Hahaha! I know just what you’re talking about, Mom. That part where she’s looking attentively out under the bushes; meanwhile her paws are going full stop beneath her. That part always makes me smile!

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  3. Hey Jason cool photo, it is really amazing to watch them moving those paws. We have them here too, and you are so right about them going head first. I saw them once at the zoo hanging on the branch head down, just like a rug, lol. Thanks for interesting post and video. Anna 🙂

  4. That patting is much like the squirrels when they bury peanuts in the yard and flower beds. I’m wondering if the raccoon uses its paws to feel for food because it is more efficient than looking, or if she is just keeping a watchful eye out while she gropes for food. Hmmmm.

    1. You know, Amber, I think they use their paws to augment their eyes when they search for food. She looks at the ground often enough, but she does just as much searching with her paws. And I watch them often enough to have the feeling that, like a person eating popcorn during a movie, raccoons use their paws for both convenience and necessity.

  5. We have a set of raccoons that visit the deck every night and clean up the spilled birdseed from the day’s feeding. They are fearless of us and our hysterically barking dog (he just this SECOND started barking), as long as we stay inside. Any hint that a door might be opening sends them flying away.

    1. I’m surprised they seem that skittish, Joy. Most of them around these parts are at least tolerant of people, while some, like this female, are downright comfortable. Of course, we’re in the middle of the city and people are at the lake all the time, so the animals have to be acclimated to us if they’re going to live here.

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