Wild Tracks

Raccoon Surprise


The wily raccoon is well known across most of the North American continent. Most, but not all.

Their population exploded in the 1940’s, with the spread of urbanization and agriculture (easy food) and the extermination of predators by man giving them a helping hand. Their expansion was somewhat limited by the terrain, as raccoons depend on vertical structures to climb when they feel threatened. They avoid open areas that don’t provide trees to climb for safety.

Since the 1950’s, their range expanded north to the forested regions of south eastern Canada, and the western Rocky Mountains in British Columbia.

The province of Alberta has traditionally been raccoon-free. To enter from the south or east, raccoons would have had to cross the broad, flat prairie landscape. To enter from the west, they would have to traverse the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains. There is no official literature listing them as an Alberta wildlife species.

I live in southern Alberta, tucked up against the prairie and the mountains. Imagine my surprise then, when I looked out the window on the front of our house and saw this little critter in our tree.

Raccoon surprise

What are you looking at?!

There had been rumours among the local naturalist community about raccoons being spotted here and there. They were  thought to be making their way along the treed banks of the Bow River. We live a block from said river.

As an avid bird watcher, I have several bird feeders in my yard. What a happy raccoon I had that morning. After several tries, he figured out that if he held this feeder with one hand, he could shovel the sunflower seeds into his mouth with the other one and it wouldn’t swing out of reach. He kept yanking on the feeder though, wanting to take it away with him.

Almost got it...

Yes! Food!

The squirrels in the tree were somewhat underwhelmed by his presence. My cat in the house was fascinated, and kept making these strange noises in the back of his throat while keeping a close eye on the intruder.

What the hell are you?

Look at the size of that thing!

This young raccoon hung around the tree for about 3 hours. I went ballistic taking photos and video through the window. Whenever I moved, he paused in his feeding for a few seconds, then casually resumed what he was doing.

I admit to being totally in love with raccoons. Yes, I know they get into your garbage and eat the food put out for the birds. I don’t care. If this little guy comes back on a regular basis, I’ll likely be putting dry dog food in the bird feeders. Or perhaps buying specialized raccoon food.

I wouldn’t put anything past me when it comes to raccoons.