Back in September an unnamed man went on vacation from Florida to California (too much sunshine!) and unbeknownst to him a pregnant raccoon gave birth to a litter of babies in his van along the way. Upon arriving in Stinson Beach he found five of the six cubs alive but in critical condition (the sixth died.) He rushed them to a nearby animal hospital, where the living babies made a recovery. Unfortunately, releasing raccoons into the wild is illegal in California! Rather than them having to be put down, however, the nearby Oakland Zoo‘s veterinary hospital was willing to take them for some more long-term care while WildCare seeks either a permanent home for the animals or an opportunity to release them into the wild.
Good luck, little cuties!
Personally, I’ve never liked that zoos don’t consider raccoons “exotic” enough to have in their exhibits. They’re cute, dammit! Put ’em on display! And I’d love to find a petting zoo with raccoons. I really want to find a petting zoo with raccoons.
Yesterday was International Raccoon Appreciation Day. I celebrated by watching Guardians of the Galaxy. I also took the time to read a great article from Slate that details the rapidly developing raccoon population and how humankind is inadvertently helping them become smarter and bolder. Some excerpts are below:
On how urban and rural raccoons differ
She tracked urban raccoons outfitted with GPS collars and found that they avoided crossing major roads, as if they’d learned to avoid cars. She placed tough-to-open garbage cans in both the city and country, with delicious treats like cat food at the bottom, and found the urban raccoons, for the most part, could solve the puzzle, while the rural ones had no success whatsoever.
On the need to study raccoon psychology further
“I would put their little brains up again pretty much anything,” MacDonald says. Studies from the early 1900s put raccoons near monkeys—and ahead of cats and dogs—on several measures of intelligence. (Raccoon brains are seriously overdue for study. Early comparative psychologists were fascinated by them, according to a short history of the topic, but their work devolved into academic squabbles, and there hasn’t been a lot of research into raccoon psychology since.)
On being the most American of animals
Besides, just what constitutes a pest depends on whom you’re asking. Native to the New World, raccoons stand for “wilderness and freedom … self-reliance and adaptability,” argued a 1963 Harper’s piece that called them more American than the bald eagle. One writer, pointing out how traits like adaptability and opportunism are shared by humans and raccoons, asks: “[I]f we reject animals for their destructive habits, at what point do we turn the gaze on ourselves?”
In Boulder, CO a raccoon was killed when it was hit by a car. Not a terribly rare occurrence there or anywhere. What is uncommon is somebody going up to the dead raccoon and tying a “get well soon” balloon to its leg. I guess it would brighten up the experience for the crew responsible for cleaning up roadkill.
Raccoon aficionados will recall that a similar event occurred last year in Toronto. But then people attaching “get well soon” sentiments to dead animals is sort of a thing. The Internet, as always is set to meme the world.
Not much to say this week. Just that I read a fantastic article at Nautilus (which I have to admit is a rather well-laid out webzine) about the intelligence of raccoons and the ongoing war with them in Toronto, which requires the development of raccoon-proof locks on garbage bins. Here’s an excerpt:
The city itself may be partly to blame. “Cities are machines for learning. They offer a maelstrom of activities,” says Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, author of Triumph of the City. “I’m sure it must be for animals as well, a range of possibilities to learn from and learn about.” Cities might have proved particularly beneficial to raccoons because of their innate boldness. MacDonald says bold and curious animals like racoons make good learners.
So apparently some piece of shit college football player named Jack Gangwish decided to abduct a raccoon from the side of the road and try to get a selfie with it. The animal, fearing for its safety, bit him in self-defense. His response was to attempt to capture the raccoon to get it tested for rabies. Instead of merely bludgeoning it into unconsciousness with his crescent wrench, however, he killed it. Knowing how stupid football players tend to be, I imagine he was compelled to do this idiotic act based on the recent commercial featuring Marshawn Lynch and a random raccoon pet.
Here’s hoping the knocks that Jack Gangwish takes while playing football cause his brain to turn to mush sooner rather than later.