7 Fascinating Raccoon Facts

Were you one of the thousands of people around the world transfixed by the raccoon with apparent superpowers that managed to climb up a 25-story office building in St. Paul? Amazingly, the raccoon made it all the way to the roof, possibly lured by the smell of a trap baited with cat food. She was later released on a private residential property in the suburbs.

7 Fascinating Raccoon Facts

While they are frequently considered to be “nuisance animals,” this raccoon proved they are really something special. Here are some fascinating facts you may not know about these so-called “masked bandits.”

1. Raccoons usually climb up to about 30 feet.

Most raccoons climb on, average, about 20 to 30 feet, so climbing a skyscraper is very unusual. “That kind of height is extraordinary,” Russell L. Burke, a biology professor at Hofstra University, told the New York Times.

2. Their front paws are super dexterous and sensitive.

Although they don’t have opposable thumbs, raccoons’ nimble paws help them cling to buildings at amazing heights. Those paws are also extremely sensitive, containing four to five times more sensory cells than other mammals, National Geographic notes.

Seventy-five percent of their brains’ sensory-processing capabilities are devoted to the sense of touch, allowing raccoons to “see” objects with their paws. Special hairs (vibrissae) above their sharp claws enable them to find objects without even touching them.

3. Raccoons don’t really ‘wash’ their food before eating it.

Although raccoons are often seen dipping food in water before eating it, they’re probably not cleaning it. It’s believed that getting their paws wet makes them even more sensitive and helps raccoons better identify what they’re about to eat.

raccoon washing food

Photo credit: StockSnap

4. They’ve managed to thrive in urban environments.

Raccoons are one of the few species that has actually thrived thanks to urban sprawl, according to Mental Floss. Their population has skyrocketed in North America over the past 50 years or so.

Instead of eating birds, insects, fruits and other foods in the wild, urban raccoons adapt to living on a diet of scavenged garbage and pet food. And instead of making nests in their natural habitats like forests, marshes or swamps, urban raccoons make their homes in abandoned and occupied buildings.

5. City raccoons are more clever than rural ones.

No matter where they live, raccoons have minds as that are as sharp as their claws. For example, they can solve problems and remember the solutions years later. However, unlike their brethren in the wild, raccoons living in urban areas have clearly shown they have city smarts.

In a study conducted by Suzanne MacDonald, a psychologist and biologist at York University in Toronto, cat food was placed at the bottom of a lidded trash can. Rural raccoons would sniff out the scent on the outside of the can, while urban raccoons would lift the lid off the can.

In another study, when MacDonald placed GPS collars on some city raccoons, she discovered they had learned to stay away from busy intersections.

raccoon in trash can

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

6. Their masks help them see better.

The distinctive black markings around their eyes help raccoons see more clearly by absorbing light and preventing glare. The reduction of peripheral light helps raccoons see better after dark, which is when they’re the most active.

Raccoons also recognize each other by their masks. In one heartwarming case last year, some orphaned baby raccoons mistook a bearded fisherman for their mother, climbing up his legs and licking his ears.

7. There once was a ‘first raccoon’ in the White House.

Among the more unusual pets of U.S. presidents was a raccoon named Rebecca. She lived in the White House with Calvin Coolidge and his family in the early 1920s after the president decided to spare her life instead having her for dinner.

Rebecca participated in the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn and often accompanied the Coolidges on walks around the grounds (that’s her in the photo with the first lady, Grace).

Speaking of unusual pets, Coolidge also had a bobcat, two lion cubs and an antelope, among other wild animals. Fortunately, keeping wild animals as pets is no longer legal in the District of Columbia – and raccoon meat is probably no longer offered on the White House dinner menu.

Grace Coolidge and pet raccoon Rebecca

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Take Action

More than 37,000 people have signed a Care2 petition calling for the raccoon to be honored with a plaque on the UBS building she climbed, and she certainly deserves it.

Want to make a difference on an issue important to you? Create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

 

Photo credit: clanctot

105 comments

Ruth S
Ruth S2 months ago

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bob P
bob P2 months ago

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Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

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Leo C
Leo C2 months ago

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Barbara M
Barbara S2 months ago

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Chad Anderson
Chad A2 months ago

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Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

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Amanda McConnell
Amanda M2 months ago

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Amanda McConnell
Amanda M2 months ago

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Leo Custer
Leo C2 months ago

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