We share our living space with the animals that have inhabited the area for hundreds of years.
Some animals have readily adapted to the way humans carry on in day to day life. The raccoon is one such animal.
The raccoon, Procyon lotor, is an animal steeped with folklore and mystery.
In the past, the raccoon was believed to have spiritual powers because of its facial markings.
Others thought of raccoon as a trickster; an animal that can hoodwink a fox or coyote.
A raccoon can grow more than three feet in length and weigh almost 25 pounds.
Raccoons are distinguishable from a cat or an opossum by its dark mask and ringed bushy tail.
It is a girthy mammal that often wobbles when it walks.
Even the young have a burly appearance because of their thick coat.
Up close, raccoons reveal five digits on their paws, like humans.
The raccoon uses their skillful paws to manipulate fence locks, pick up bowls, wash their food, grab items or to climb trees.
Although it is a wild animal, some people have tried to make a raccoon a pet.
The raccoon can be dangerous when provoked or startled. They come equipped with sharp teeth and formidable claws.
Humans fall for their obvious cuteness of the raccoon and sometimes leave cat food or dog food on a stoop or deck for them to eat.
This type of feeding habituates the animal to become a frequent visitor to homes.
What was a kind gesture can easily turn into situation where you have an unwelcomed guest.
The raccoon is not afraid of dogs or cats when confronted.
The raccoon is an omnivore. That is, it eats both plants and meat.
As a predominantly nocturnal creature, the raccoon searches through darkness looking for opportunities to find food, such as pet food and food scraps from humans.
“Raccoons are scary,” said Mentone resident Frankie Salazar. “If I see them, they will look at me and I get scared.”
Salazar commented that raccoons visit his yard.
“They come in our yard and eat the dog food. Sometimes the lid is off the can, and the raccoons come in and eat it. They’re smart animals. It’s cool and scary at the same time.”
Raccoons can also be found by lakes and manmade ponds.
They prefer to eat insects, crayfish, fish, amphibians and other aquatic animals.
Raccoons will even steal bird eggs for a quick meal.
However, one third of a raccoon’s diet is plant-based.
With summer underway, you might see more raccoons over the next month, as the young tend to part ways with their parents and explore the world on their own.
So, if you see a somewhat large fluffy ball of fur ambling from side to side on a sidewalk or a fence line, give it a wide berth.
It might be a raccoon. It may look cute but give it some distance.
Take a photo or two to keep the memory.