Raccoons go from cute puppies to extravagant adults

Ken Baker, Ph.D.

Ken Baker and cocoa

With the possible exception of a certain overly aggressive red squirrel that tried to bite off a couple of my fingers at the elbow, the meanest animal I worked with was a small but surprisingly strong female raccoon.

Well, maybe mean really isn’t the right word. I too would probably express my annoyance if some lout caught me, covered my body with a burlap sack with only my head sticking out, and put a leather collar with a radio transmitter around my neck. So, seriously upset, then.

On the other hand, the most outrageously adorable creature was a month-old raccoon cub.

And that captures the enigma of this intriguing, comical, and frequently troublesome mammal. A star of countless funny animal videos on YouTube and, all too often, the beloved family pet rescued by children as an orphaned baby… who turns vicious as an adult, trashing the living room before leaving. of the house through a window. screen.

A raccoon in the wild.

Captain John Smith, leader of the Virginia colony at Jamestown in 1609, named the species “aroughcun” in his journals after the Powhatan term for “hand-scratching animal”. It’s an apt name since the raccoon’s hypersensitive front legs are the source of its most important sense, more crucial to its daily survival than its keen sense of hearing and smell (or somewhat less acute vision).