Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Nature Watch: Raccoon


Last updated 11/12/2021 at 1pm

Nighttime trail cam photo of raccoon

They look cute and cuddly, and these little masked bandits are wild critters that most people would expect to find in woods.

But the common raccoon occupies a wide range of habitats from forest to scrub woodlands, urban neighborhoods and even our own desert. They range from Central America into Mexico, the United States, southern Canada and Europe and even enjoy the tropical climate of the Caribbean islands.

Here in Borrego, raccoons or their tracks that look like tiny human palm prints, have been spotted from the badlands to Coyote Canyon. They are common around Rams Hill neighborhoods.

The raccoon is easily identified by a bushy, banded tail, plump, furry body, and the distinctive black mask covering the eyes. Typically, they are about 16 to 30 inches in length and can weigh 10 to over 50 pounds.

The raccoon is secretive and stealthy, and mostly feeds at night. In the wild, their menus include a wide range of food from plants to animals, including wild berries, acorns, and a variety of other plants, along with mice, baby birds and eggs, crayfish, frogs, fish, and snakes.

They adapt well to humans and will happily enjoy crops such as corn and melons, but will thrive by rummaging through your trash, eating pet food or garden vegetables.

If you are camping, these intelligent little creatures may stage a midnight raid on your camp, feasting on anything you left out, or even opening unlatched coolers to see what's inside. If there is water nearby, these little midnight bandits will often wash their food before eating.

You are most likely to see raccoons at night while they are out foraging, but while hiking during the day, especially around water, look for the small footprints with five toes. Trail cameras placed near water will often capture raccoons at night drinking or washing food.

As with many wild creatures, the raccoon has a spiritual meaning for some Native American tribes. It is variously seen as a trickster, mischievous, a spirit of the sky, river, and lakes, and a creature of great dexterity.

The raccoon, especially babies, are incredibly cute, but they are wild animals and will aggressively defend themselves. Keep your distance.

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