The Raccoon

Yearly Cycle of Power: Spring and Summer
Time of Power: Night
Attributes: Dexterity, Touch, Calm, Shyness, Determination, Curiosity, and Masks

No matter what, the Raccoon is one of those animals you just donít forget. Even though it sometimes tips over your garbage can and gets into places where you wish it wouldn't, its charisma, masked face, and little smile keep us intrigued. The Raccoon (Procyon Lotor), is unique to North America and is most closely related to the bear family. The Raccoon is a medium sized mammal weighing between 5 and 18 kg and being between 60 and 105 cm (2 or 3 feet) excluding the tail. It has grayish-brown fur with a black mask on the face and 4 to 7 black rings on the tail. The interesting thing is that the tip of the tail is always black. It has very dexterous fingers on its paws with its front paws acting much like the hands of a human. Each digit on the paw has a non-retractable claw. The name raccoon comes from an Algonquin word meaning 'He who scratches with his hands'. The major habitat of the Raccoon ranges from Southern Canada down through Central America in virtually every type of environment as long as water is near. They need to keep water near as they need to drink it every day to survive. This means that they can live in nearly every environment except deserts and alpine regions. Raccoons have a rough sort of communication with each other which can consist of snarls, growls, screams, hisses, purrs, and whimpers. In the wild they can live to about 10 years of age. Raccoons are generally shy animals, only active at night.

One of the amazing things about the Raccoon is its hands. It has hands that look very much like our own. Its specialized hands gives it a highly developed sense of touch. These hands allow them to be very dexterous and combined with their keen intelligence, it enables them to figure out complex puzzles. For example, a Raccoon has been known to open jars by taking off the lid, open doors by turning the door knob, open latches to windows, etc. If there is a reward of food at the end, the Raccoon will figure out a way to get to it. With its dexterous hands, it has a certain sensitivity to its food, in that it prefers it to be washed before it eats it. It will often take its food to a water source and use its hands to nimbly wash its food before ingesting it. Some cultures' name for the Raccoon reflects its washing nature. It has been called "The washing bear", "little washing rat", and "washing pre-dog". Some scientists think that it is not intentionally washing its food and is just following instinctual motions. In my opinion, though, they are such a clever animal that it would follow that they are washing their food on purpose. Their hands and claws allow them to be very nimble tree climbers. They are one of only a few animals that can climb down a tree head first. And if the climbing fails, a Raccoon can miraculously drop up to 40 feet unharmed. Thatís a feat that would earn them a position as a performer in the circus. They can run at about 15 miles per hour and can swim very well. Being nocturnal, their sense of hearing, sight, and smell are all quite advanced. The Raccoon is also a relatively intelligent animal leaving the intelligence of animals like cats and dogs far below it. In addition to this, the Raccoon is not held captive to a "fight or flight" response as most animals are. When encountering danger, they do not go into an adrenaline surge, instead they enter this Shaolin monk Zen type of state. They calm down, their heart rate slows down, and they become hyper alert. This calmness allows them to examine the situation and choose the most logical response. This calm, matched with their dexterity and intelligence, makes them supreme fighters if they decide to be. Even against a pack of dogs, odds are that the Raccoon is the winner. And a single dog can be killed by a Raccoon with relative ease. Truly a Raccoon will only enter a fight he can win as he has calculated his odds before the fight begins. If he thinks they are not in his favour, then he will flee. With this cool calculating manner combined with its dexterity and the mask on its face, it is no wonder that the Raccoon gets a reputation as a master thief. Perhaps a better description of the Raccoon would be 'ninja of the forest'.

Mankind has been both a blessing and a boon to the Raccoon. The Raccoon population has increased alongside man as it benefits from us. It eats our garbage and other leftovers and benefits from the lack of predators in our cities and towns. In fact Raccoon densities are up to 20 times more in Urban centers than in the wild. And at the same time, we are the biggest killers of Raccoons. Although Bobcats, Wolves, Coyotes, Owls, Eagles, and Foxes will sometimes prey upon the Raccoon, the numbers taken by these animals pale in comparison to those that are killed by cars. Raccoons are true omnivores. They are opportunistic and will eat what they come across. Nuts, berries, leaves, acorns, eggs, fruit, vegetables, and corn are some examples of things they will eat if they come across them. They are not great hunters, but they most definitely eat meat as well as vegetable matter. They will gladly dine on road kill as there is no hunting involved there. They will catch small animals to eat as well, including insects, grasshoppers, crickets, grubs, wasps, worms, dragonflies, clams, salamanders, frogs, squirrels, crayfish, turtles, fish, mice and snakes. They are quite determined hunters when they do so though. For example, if they find a wasp nest, they will hang out at the nest and eat every wasp that comes out of it. Then they will crack it open and eat all the larvae as well. They will go through streams and shallow pools turning over rocks and so forth looking for crayfish and other yummy things to eat. The Raccoon will follow its curiosity in all matters just in case it might lead to food or something to play with. Mainly they are known by people for rummaging through garbage cans. And for this they are known as pests. This is unfortunate though as they are truly recycling waste that would otherwise just sit and rot. And we should not forget their usefulness to humans in controlling animal populations (like wasps). By far the Raccoons favorite food is corn. It will do anything and everything it can to get its hands on some corn. In the early fall, the Raccoon will try to focus on eating protein and fatty rich foods to prepare for winter. The Raccoon doesnít really hibernate per se, but it does go through periods of inactivity in the cold of winter as it hates the cold.

Raccoons prefer to live in leafy forests near rivers or streams. They will have a permanent home, usually about 15 feet above the forest floor, like a hollow tree, caves, chimneys or attics. They may also use underground burrows which are usually stolen from other animals like skunks, foxes, or woodchucks. Crawl spaces and storm sewers also make attractive dens for Raccoons. They keep their dens very clean and usually have one spot in their territory that they use as a latrine. The males are very protective of their territory, which may overlap various female territories. The females are not very protective of their territories and they may even band together in small colonies. Raccoons mate in the spring and are not monogamous in the slightest. The mothers give birth to 1 to 8 fully furry babies after a few months gestation. The young are weaned at about 2 months of age. At this time they are old enough to run, play, and learn from adults. Their mother continues to take care of them until past their first winter. They reach sexual maturity after about a year.

The Raccoon has myths exclusively amoung the Native Americans. All the myths have a similar theme to them. The Raccoon steals food in a stunning and clever way and as a result creates all sorts of mischief. As a result, he is sometimes punished by being given a black mask that he must always wear. In Japanese mythology, there is an animal that is similar to the Raccoon: the Tanuki. A Tanuki is a Raccoon-Dog, but also a god of gluttony, alcohol, and restaurateurs. Oddly enough, the God Tanuki also has giant testicles, which he beats like a drum. He is a wily trickster, much like the Raccoon, who is fond of drinking, practical jokes, and womanizing. Tanuki is often equated to the Greek God Dionysus. This doesnít seem to be a good fit for the Raccoon though as it is not a completely chaotic creature. It is good at trickery and thieving, so I would say that Hermes would be a good fit. It is good at being calm and ordered under pressure, so I would say it has a link to Apollo as well.

A person who has the Raccoon as a totem will seem a bit of an enigma at first glance as they will be both shy and charismatic. One might think these two characteristics are at odds, but the raccoon will soon show you that this is not the case. A Raccoon Totem will be very curious about all things around them and quite open to trying new activities or experiences. They will be master puzzle and problem solvers as they will be very determined and intelligent. And they will be calm. A Raccoon Totem will not be one to raise his or her voice in anger, as he or she will not have the anger response that most people have. The Raccoon Totem will be serene under pressure and calculating in their response. This does not mean they are always passive. If you push them, they will remain their calm composure, which will baffle you right up to the moment when they strike out with their lightning dexterity to slam you to the floor. They are truly like a Shaolin Monk. In fact, a Raccoon Totem would thrive in martial arts. The Raccoon will also be a very tactile person, always using their sense of touch before all other senses. Many interpret the Raccoon Totem as being all about masks and transformation. And although its mask is prominent, I disagree about the transformation bit. It is not a mask of transformation, but one of hiding and stealth. The metaphor of a Raccoon Totemís mask is that of its shy nature and ability to get into things undetected. In Love the Raccoon will always be a bit aloof and distant from its partner. The Raccoon Totem will be a very good provider for the family and will be caring towards its children, but it will always hold apart of itself back. They are best when not paired with a Totem that needs a very intimate connection. Career wise, the Raccoon flourishes under careers that make use of its problem solving and intelligence. This can vary widely from Doctor, to Thief, to Detective. It does well in situations that involve its sense of touch as well. On top of the careers mentioned, this can translate into sculpture, woodworking, etc. As the Raccoon is shy by nature, it does not do quite as well in social environments, so careers that are highly social are to be avoided. With their penchant for martial arts and puzzle solving, careers in law enforcement or as a spy are quite a good fit. For the same reasons, they would make a supreme criminal.

Written by RavenDreamer