Thursday, 17 May 2012

Tough Little Masked Vixen

 After visiting some of our best mates at Brookfield Zoo, we rode the length of the Salt Creek Bike Trail as part of our ongoing research project:  "Relative Aerodynamicity, Contrast, and Olfactory Impact of Select Ungulate Dietary Components",  or "What the f*** can we put in our backpack to feed deer." 

Near the end of our ride, we spotted one of about 5 of these little tumbleweeds that we'd occasioned over the course of the afternoon.

Ok, yes, we have all seen about a hundred of these guys all over the city. 

But I never cease to be amazed by them.

First, watching them is unbelievably entertaining. Partly this is because of their boundless curiosity, and partly their relative intelligence - multiple studies have demonstrated that these little furballs can remember the solutions to tasks for up to three years, and instantly differentiate between identical and different symbols three years after the short initial learning phase (1).

While it's a myth that racoons have truly opposable thumbs, their first front digit is located slightly below the others, so they are able to use it in a somewhat opposable manner. Their other digits are really agile - imagine doing this with just your  four longest fingers!  :
Finally, racoons take no sh*t from anyone - dog, cat, or otherwise. We posted pix on our facebook pages of an urban racoon taking food from literally under our (very fighty) cat's nose.

We were a bit worried about this little girl's patches of missing fur (you can see one in a horseshoe shape on top of her back)- unclear if it was due to injury or illness. She had about a half inch of growback, so my guess is injury, but that could be wrong.

 Also, we don't always advocate feeding wild animals, but  she was clearly nursing  and this was organic wholegrain bread. (By the way, if you see a racoon foraging in the day, there is a good chance she is a nursing mum, so please be kind :)), and this was organic wholegrain bread.  It wasn't going to do her harm, and she, and her wee ones, could use it.

So yes, these little dustbunnies are all over - but that's really a sign of just how amazingly adaptable, and resourceful, they are!  How cool that we get to live side by side with such a neat creature.

1. Hohmann, Ulf (1998). Untersuchungen zur Raumnutzung des Waschbären (Procyon lotor) im Solling, Südniedersachsen, unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Sozialverhaltens.  (Dissertation in German with a summary in English at the University of Göttingen; translation of the title: A Study of Raccoon (Procyon lotor) Space Utilization in Southern Lower Saxony, Germany, with Respect to Social Behaviour)