Toby and I heard something outside last night, and this morning there were more prints from a raccoon on the deck. My anxiety level is “yellow” lately (I classify it with the old Homeland Security color-coded threat levels), so I decided to do some quick internet digging to see if a raccoon’s favorite place to live is underneath a nice redwood deck (answer: maybe).*

But in the process, I learned all sorts of fascinating facts about the raccoon:

  • Their sense of touch is their most acute sense, and becomes even more pronounced underwater, hence the “food washing” behavior and  their Latin name, Procyon lotor, or “dog washer”
  • The Dakota Sioux believe(d) the raccoon has natural spirit powers, since its mask resembles the facial paintings used during rituals to connect to spirit beings
  • And direct from Wikipedia (emphasis and notes mine), “Raccoons were able to open 11 of 13 complex locks in fewer than 10 tries and had no problems repeating the action when the locks were rearranged or turned upside down….Studies in 1963, 1973, 1975 and 1992 concentrated on raccoon memory showed they can remember the solutions to tasks for up to three years [ed: three years is their average lifespan in the wild.] In a study…in 1992, raccoons were able to instantly differentiate between identical and different symbols three years after the short initial learning phase.”

I might have to look under the deck a little more closely if the Anxiety Level goes to Orange, but really, an extremely intelligent spirit guide hanging out around my home, posing no danger to my indoor cat and not leaving anything but prints, isn’t that bad.

…and I am going to be the worst traditional ranch owner ever. But a really good hippie ranch owner.


*”Tree hollows in old oaks or other trees and rock crevices are preferred by raccoons as sleeping, winter and litter dens. If such dens are unavailable or accessing them is inconvenient, raccoons use burrows dug by other mammals, dense undergrowth or tree crotches.”