Posts Tagged ‘raccoons’

Being Handy

The ‘Peel and Eat’ Buffet

While much human labor involves manipulating tools, most wild creatures depend solely on their hands to do the work for them. Imagine how finger numbing it would be to peel back a lawn using only your hands?  The raccoon whose handiwork this is must have been peeling for some time before he made such a mess of my lawn.

Maybe I’d be in a peeling frenzy too if I shared his appetite for worms.  Considering all the worms I found under the sod, it’s no wonder he keeps coming back for more.

Some of the worms that managed to not get eaten by the raccoon (yet)

Besides their awesome dexterity, raccoons’ compulsive hand washing is also a source of fascination.  One popular theory suggests that these ‘Little Washing Bears’ simply wash their food prior to eating it.  However, researchers Rasmusson and Turnbull discovered that wetting actually enhances the sensitivity of raccoons’ hand nerves (Sensory innervation of the raccoon forepaw: 2. Response properties and classification of slowly adapting fibers’ ).  This wetting process would certainly give raccoons more information regarding the edibility of their food and make it easier for them to catch food underwater.

If women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.
~ Red Green

Raccoons have managed to use their dexterity to repeatedly lift off my garbage can lid, pluck tomatoes from my garden and abscond with the suet balls I thought I had carefully tied to tree branches.

Considering how much their survival is linked to their handiwork, I wonder to what extent a raccoon’s handiness is considered in the choice of mates.

For more about raccoons see:
The Lawn Ripper and When Bandits Strike

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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Many creatures rip up lawns.  In Nova Scotia, moles, voles, birds, skunks and raccoons are often the culprits.  Though you might have some suspicions as to what is doing the ripping, the only way to be sure is to catch the lawn ripper in action.  This morning I was lucky.

Though usually nocturnal, this raccoon was still looking for a meal as the sun was rising.  Raccoons have the manual dexterity to peel back the grass and moss to reveal tasty grubs and worms living beneath the surface.  Their ripping actions can leave large enough areas bare that a lawn is damaged.

Moles and voles, being smaller creatures, do smaller damage.  They also typically make trails or furrows in the grass.

Northern Flickers are birds that will also make holes in the lawn by digging  for ants with their beaks.  Their holes are made by a digging action rather than a peeling back.

This little darling gave me a good look before deciding to head for cover in the woods.  It was probably also tired after a long night of foraging.

A former neighbor told me much of her beautiful lawn was peeled back by raccoons some years ago.  After many attempts to deter them, she ended up live-trapping the critters.  They were then re-located by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

I don’t take the appearance of my lawn too seriously, so the lawn ripper is welcome to the insects in my yard.  I just wish it would have the courtesy to replace the divots.

For more information on dealing with nuisance raccoons in Nova Scotia, visit Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources.

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Do you ever get the feeling you’re being robbed?  I got it twice this past week and both times flicked on the back light to see a raccoon trying to abscond with my suet.  Last evening I managed to take a photo of the charming culprit just before it ran into the woods, leaving the fresh suet  ball swinging from the tree branch.  But it must have returned later in the evening.  This morning, the mesh bag was still there, but the suet was gone. 

Ten to 25 raccoons per square km are typically found in Canadian urban centres.  I don’t imagine there are fewer present in rural areas.  In Nova Scotia, they’re classed as furbearers and receive legal protection.

Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores that can quickly become pests if they come to rely too heavily on a single food source in your yard.  One left its paw prints on my back steps back in November after knocking over my garbage container.  Securing the container’s lid more tightly prevented future visits.

One of my former neighbors had some tear up her lawn a few years ago while probably looking for grubs.  The raccoons were trapped and relocated. 

Raccoons can acquire both canine and feline distemper as well as rabies and should be kept away from warm blooded pets. 

I don’t think I’ll be putting out any more suet balls.  All that saturated fat can’t be good for the poor raccoons anyhow.  Instead, I’ll smear some suet onto the bark of trees so that the chickadees and woodpeckers can still enjoy it during the daytime hours.

For more information on dealing with raccoons that have become a nuisance, see here.

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