Tag Archives: raccoon (Procyon lotor)

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.

— — — — — — — — — —


  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.

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge – Part 2

I girded myself for a second day in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.  Every part of my body itched from mosquito bites.  And where mosquitoes had yet to nibble my flesh, deer flies had graced me with a polka-dot pattern of damage.  Still, I refused to slather anything on the wounds to salve the constant discomfort just as I refused to apply chemical armor for the fight ahead.  Wildlife seemed so uncomfortable already, so displaced by lack of fresh water, food and shelter, hence marching into the refuge cloaked in a noxious cloud felt like an even worse idea than it normally would be.

A light rain had fallen the previous afternoon and evening, nothing more than a sprinkle blanketed across hours.  I held little hope that it proffered anything more than a tease for this parched and dying retreat.

A killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) standing on exposed aquatic vegetation (2009_05_16_018783)

Two killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) made a brief appearance in what had been a brackish pond, one of a handful separated from salt marshes by ancient oyster shell ridges.  The birds bathed atop aquatic vegetation exposed by too little water.  As I watched the plovers tend to their hygiene needs, I wondered about the plethora of white feathers scattered over the surface.  Then I realized the blanket of white didn’t come from birds: it was crystallized salt.  This slough should be mostly fresh water but never recovered from Hurricane Ike’s storm surge.  As the water continued to retreat, the high saline content became a sort of tropical snow spread over the landscape.

A prairie racerunner (a.k.a. prairie six-lined racerunner; Cnemidophorus sexlineatus viridis) standing on sandy soil (2009_05_16_018812)

Like other whiptails, the prairie racerunner (a.k.a. prairie six-lined racerunner; Cnemidophorus sexlineatus viridis) is both diurnal and insectivorous.  I saw a few of them in the coastal woodlands and an individual in grasslands near the swamps and marshes.  Those in the oak & redbay forest had gathered to feast on a swarm of flies hovering over the sandy ground.  The small dark cloud of buzzing arthropods brought the lizards out from all directions.  As for the racerunner in the grasslands, it seemed desperate to find food and chased anything that moved—which was very little.  In previous years I’ve tripped over the army of whiptails scampering about at high speed.  But not this year.

A Common raccoon (a.k.a. northern raccoon, washer bear, or coon; Procyon lotor) walking in the surf at the Texas coast (2009_05_16_018826)

Common raccoons (a.k.a. northern raccoon, washer bear, or coon; Procyon lotor) were out in force.  I spotted this one at noon hunting in the surf whilst trying unsuccessfully to keep its feet dry.  While they don’t have to be nocturnal, so many individuals active throughout the day leads me to wonder if their behavior has changed in response to ecological pressure.  I saw no armadillos and no opossums; likewise, I saw no squirrels and no chipmunks.  Groups of wild boar and javelina moved further inland such that I only saw them from great distances as they hid in mottes.  Their numbers have been greatly reduced.

A white prickly poppy (a.k.a. bluestem pricklypoppy; Argemone albiflora) flower (2009_05_16_018935)

White prickly poppy (a.k.a. bluestem pricklypoppy; Argemone albiflora) is drought tolerant.  Or so it should be.  Few of these native plants were flowering; all of them—like this one—showed a growing number of withering leaves.  Wildflowers and grasses in the refuge look stunted at best and dead at worst.  Yet lack of fresh water in the ground explains only half the problem.  The high salt content not flushed by local and upstream rainfall has damaged the soil chemistry, an issue that won’t soon disappear given the amount of dry salt left behind as water evaporates.  Even heavy rain will not easily wash that away given the volume of salt and how much moisture the soil can now absorb.  And it wounded me to see so many trees that never returned from winter slumber…

A swamp that serves as the alligator viewing area at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (2009_05_16_018911)

The alligator viewing area.  A fence stretched along the swamp keeps little children and stupid people from becoming lunch.  A few years ago this place crawled with large reptiles bathing in sunshine, floating at the surface, hiding in the reeds and perching along the banks.  This year?  Not one alligator seen over an entire weekend, at least not here where they should have been numerous.  Then again, I saw not one turtle and not one frog, and only one species of snake throughout the whole refuge—throughout the whole weekend.

A white peacock butterfly (Anartia jatrophae) perched on a stem (2009_05_16_018890)

A white peacock butterfly (Anartia jatrophae) perched only long enough for a single photo, after which it flitted away through the barren landscape.  The distance from flower to flower, at least from its perspective, must have seemed gigantic.  Of more than 700 plant species within the refuge, many are dead or dying while the rest struggle to hold on to what little life they have left.  And of more than 100 wildflower species, perhaps 20-30 bloomed this year.

This will be the last of my personal observations from the refuge.  The final installment of this series will include a few more images along with quotes from various sources about the changed climate in this part of the world.

[cross-posted to The Clade]

The shrewish latecomer

Last Saturday morning promised to be spectacular.  After two nights of heavy rain and severe weather, the sun climbed above the horizon into a clear blue sky.

After rising from bed, I immediately set about addressing the many chores I had planned for the day, so it wasn’t until eight o’clock that I finally trekked outside with cat food in hand.  I had forgotten entirely about my many neighborhood friends.

After placing a healthy dose of kibble outside the patio fence, I returned to the laundry room to fold towels and start the next load.  Perhaps five or six minutes passed while I did that, after which I returned to the patio doors to see if anyone had shown up.

With only a quick glance through the windows, I noticed what I thought to be a largish cat munching away.  I grabbed the camera and headed outside.

Whoa!  It most certainly was not a cat.  On the contrary, it was a rather large raccoon.  And a terribly ill-mannered one at that.

Not only had he come through quite late for a raccoon, a move which ensured him a healthy bit of the feline feast, but he also possessed a very unfriendly disposition.

A large wet raccoon eating the cat food outside (181_8116)

While it’s difficult to see clearly in that photo due to the angle, he was snarling at me every time I got close.  More unpleasant was that he pretty much growled and barked and huffed in response to any noise or movement.  I suspect he was just quite serious about eating his meal and moving on.

To be honest, however, I’ve seen this chap around several times before.  He’s simply not a very nice raccoon.  He’s quite possessive, quite territorial, and quite vocal.

But I didn’t let him dissuade me from snapping a few photos.  After all, he was on my property eating cat food purchased with my money, so the least he could do was shut up and let me take a picture or two.

A large wet raccoon glancing away (181_8124)

And something else I noticed about the mouthy visitor: he was sopping wet, literally dripping from the heavy downpours overnight.  I felt a bit sorry for him, what with his fur coat all matted and drenched like that.

I still didn’t like his attitude, though.  All pushy and argumentative without a bit of gratitude for the free meal.

Another twofer special

Since I’m offering twofer deals for Tuesday, here’s another one for you.

These little marauders scared the bejesus out of me the other night.  I stood quietly on the patio lost in thought, basically letting my worries be carried away on the breeze, and suddenly these little bandits rushed right up to the fence where I was standing.  I moved quietly to get the camera turned on and aimed (quite difficult in the dark, I might add).  In the meantime, they rummaged and foraged about.  The moment the flash went off, however, they turned and scampered around the corner as though I had struck them both.

Some of the local raccoons don’t worry about me.  I don’t mess with them and they don’t mess with me, although I do beat a hasty retreat if they choose to climb the fence onto the patio.  Otherwise, they show some curiosity and will check me out in their own ways, and I in my ways will watch them with the utter fascination of a child.

These two, on the other hand, are obviously new in the neighborhood and had no idea what hit them when the area lit up like a lightning strike.  It was somewhat funny to see them turn tail and run like that.  Telling them it was only light and wouldn’t hurt them didn’t seem to help.

Two raccoons (Procyon lotor) foraging near the patio fence (150_5011)

[two raccoons (Procyon lotor)]