raccoon whisperer

August 25, 2018 | Comments Off

I’ve fallen madly in love with raccoons!

These poor guys have such a bad reputation. People get so bent out of shape over raccoons! Many are scared of them and assume they all have rabies. And if one is seen out and about during the daytime, people think that they are displaying symptoms. Listen, if one is running towards you and is foaming at the mouth, that’s not ideal, no. But typically it’s just a mama who is out looking for food for her babies. Just leave them alone. There’s no need to panic. In my opinion, they’re cute, sweet, curious, gentle, smart, and friendly. I have actually earned the trust of quite a few of them and continue to earn the trust of even more all the time. I can hand feed many of them that stop by!

It all started when Mark saw a raccoon sleeping in one of our trees. We’d go out to talk to her a lot, but she didn’t really care about us. Despite that, we were so excited!

Look at our raccoon snoozing! Mark took this pic this morning.

Eventually we realized she had four babies in there with her. We’d spend night after night watching them climb on the tree at dusk. She started leaving in the mornings and coming back for them then.

But one night I saw her on the security camera moving them, and I was devastated. I was so sad that our weeks of fun watching them out there were over. Turns out, that’s a common thing for mamas to do. Moving their babies often after they hit a certain age is what they do to protect them from predators.

To our surprise, small raccoons started showing up to one of our window bird feeders after a few weeks or so had passed.

A set of raccoons came very early tonight, and I'm excited that I got a closeup of them that's lit well

I don’t remember how it started with them coming around to our carport, but that’s where the main action now takes place each and every night. Early on, though, we’d sit out there with food. It began with them running off or going out of their way to not get too close to us while they ate. It was a slow, slow process of them learning that we weren’t going to hurt them. We started holding cookies out at an arm’s length in an attempt to get the raccoons to take them from us. I think it was maybe three days later when one carefully approached Mark to gently take a cookie from his hands. And then it went from there with many others!

Here are some cute pictures and videos!

Me with seven raccoons!
Our baby raccoon visitor thinks cookies taste better when on his belly - photo 2
Two raccoons playing by my feet
Two baby raccoons eating marshmallows from my hand

Two raccoons eating cookies:

One “washing” food on a paper plate:

Me feeding four raccoons at once:

One resting right by our feet:

A raccoon playing with a cashew:

Me making friends with a new one:

A raccoon sliding a plate away from a stray cat:

Me waving one over and it trotting to me:

One taking poundcake from me:

One stealing a donut:

Fun raccoon wrestling at the 1:04 mark:

Me hanging out with six of them:

Me feeding them marshmallows:

Raccoons drinking and wading in water:

One playing with a cat toy:

Another one eating a marshmallow:

A baby raccoon playing with something:

A mama raccoon eating a cookie:

I definitely do look forward to seeing them each night. That being said, I don’t go outside every night, but I try to sit out there as often as I can and for as long as I can manage. If my back pain is too strong, I watch them on the security cameras. I’ve heard both sides of the story with regards to the pros and cons of feeding them. I’m in a secret raccoon group on Facebook. It has people just like me in it, as well as wildlife rehabbers and people who have raccoons as pets. I’m so jealous of the people who have mama raccoons that leave their babies with them for thirty minutes here and there so that they can take a break – what a level of trust that is! Anyway, they thank me for feeding them because it’s a harsh world for them out in the wild. Then there are those who think I’m doing them a disservice. One of these reasons for that is because they believe that they won’t go out hunting if I am providing food for them. I put out a bunch of cookies and donuts, not a five-course meal. I certainly don’t put out enough food to fill up the bellies of twenty raccoons; I’d be bankrupt! It’s just a little something to help them out. Another reason I have heard is that I’m getting them too used to being around humans, and that’s not ideal because most people get scared of and then hurt the raccoons that approach them. I worry about that last part too, to be honest. There are raccoons who don’t want anything to do with me. There are some who run off scared if I open a plastic donut wrapper (but usually come back). There are one or two who stand right beside me as I pour kibble out onto a paper plate. There are a few who like to sniff me and touch me. I guess I like to think that they’re only being friendly to us because they know us. I’ve read that they can be discerning. For instance, two have recently given Mark the stink eye because they knew me but didn’t recognize him – I go out much more often than he does. The first time was when one came to eat at the food station but wouldn’t stop staring at him while he chewed. And the second was when one saw me, walked up, saw Mark, and left. Hahaha. It takes time to earn their trust, and I do hope it’s just us that they know they’re safe with. I love when a new one appears, and I eventually win them over and they’re taking food from my hands. I have a new one right now that has a very, very dark face. He is very skittish; plastic wrappers are not his friend. But he’s been taking steps closer and closer to me. I’ll be sooo happy when we make friends.

A person is supposed to be able to differentiate between raccoons by looking at their masks. Well, I apparently suck at doing that! I can only tell some of them apart based on their behavior and actions. I hope to get better at recognizing them by their faces. So, yeah, we have ones who ignore us, we have our regulars, and we have newbies that are deciding if they should like us or not. What’s maddening is that the time changes as to when they show up to eat. When this all started last year in the late summer, they’d eat early at the same time each night. Then they did their version of hibernation last winter (they don’t come out if there’s snow or if it’s below 15 degrees). When it got warmer, they started coming at almost midnight and then at all hours of the night. Recently, their arrival time has gotten earlier and earlier as the summer has progressed. Right now they’re coming even earlier and are done eating by midnight for the most part. I think they’re amazing little guys, and I’m grateful that they spend any kind of time with me. It’s actually quite an honor. I remember one time last year when it was raining really hard out. Two baby raccoons were done eating and decided to nap on our welcome mat to wait out the heavy rain. They were right next to me as I was on the bench to the left of them, and I couldn’t even go inside because they were blocking the door. Hahah. So we all just hung out together, and it was really cool. Here’s a photo from that night:

Raccoons hang out on the welcome mat instead of going back out into the rain

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