Raccoons, known to some as trash pandas or nature’s bandits, may seem cute and cuddly, but there is far more to them than meets the eye. Depending on who you ask, they are either a cute visitor that traverses from place to place or a nuisance playing havoc on someone’s property.
Whatever the case may be, knowing more about raccoons can give us all a better understanding of what they do and why. We generally know that they are scavengers, looking for security and food like just about anything else in nature.
But what else do we know about them, really? Here are a few things about the raccoon that may give you a better overall understanding.
How High Can They Jump?
In terms of actual vertical jumping ability, the answer is “not very high.” They have short, stubby little legs and they tend to be rather thick in nature. These factors combined mean that they can only jump a short distance straight up.
They can leap vertically a couple of feet, four at the most. Their bodies aren’t made for that kind of physical leaping ability, but they adapt by making the most out of their surroundings.
So, if you see one in your yard and wonder how it got there, there’s a pretty good chance that it didn’t get there by leaping over something. They’re quite agile and are much better at jumping off of things than they are at jumping over them. So, let’s try rephrasing the question a little bit.
How Far Can They Jump/Fall?
This is a much better question to ask. If you’ve ever seen a raccoon on your roof or the roof of a neighboring home, there’s a good chance that you’ve asked yourself how something so short and stubby could do it.
The answer is that raccoons are not only very good climbers, but good jumpers as well. If they can get up into a tree or another high point, they can jump distances three to four feet either vertically or laterally. Although their frame limits them in terms of leaping ability, it is just how far up they can jump from that is impressive.
There seems to be a consensus that raccoons can easily handle jumps from as high as 40 feet in the air. So, when they manage to land on the roof of a home, it is because they can climb into some of the highest trees and leap down onto the roof.
Most impressive is that they can leap from those kinds of heights without injury. If they fall, it may be another story, but their stubby little legs make for the perfect base for landing comfortably from standard heights in a landscape.
Between their climbing ability, leaping ability, and general intelligence, raccoons are able to get into many different areas that most of the other animals in the wild simply can’t. It is why they are such strong survivors and why they can also make for a very difficult pest problem.
Raccoons Are Excellent Climbers
While it may be somewhat shocking that raccoons can land comfortably from that high up, it should come as no shock that they are tremendous climbers. Their claws and jumping range allow them to scale most fences and houses with little problem. They have also proven to be quite adept at traversing up things such as gutters and rain spouts, too, causing damage to them as they climb in some instances.
Given that the origin of their name has a loose meaning of “animal that scratches with its hands,” it only makes sense that their claws are one of their most valuable assets. They are also quite persistent, holding their ground if they feel that the area is a good source of food.
It is not uncommon to find raccoons digging in your yard, either around a fence so that they can get in or near a perceived food source. Despite the fact that there are six different species of raccoons in North and South America, they all share similar traits as far as their claws and habits, making them different yet similar.
Their Unique Look
Perhaps the thing that we know best about raccoons is their trademark look. The black over their eyes stretches out to look similar to a bandit’s mask. Between that and their natural scavenging abilities, it is no wonder that they have earned the nickname “nature’s bandits.”
But did you know that there is actually a natural purpose behind those famous “black masks”? They help the raccoon see better and more clearly. The blackness of their fur works in the same way that eye-black works for athletes. The dark color helps to absorb light as it comes toward the raccoon’s eyes, reducing the glare that would have otherwise been there. That glare can make for a potential obstruction, reducing the overall quality of vision.
Since raccoons are most active at night, there is less peripheral light. Coupled with their black fur, this makes it far easier for them to see the contrast that is in the object they are focusing on. This is one of the essential traits for seeing well at night.
Their Population Is on the Rise
Generally speaking, many species and their populations have suffered from the growth of the human population over the centuries. The raccoon is quite the opposite, having seen a major rise in population over the last couple of decades. All of this despite ravaging and destruction to the raccoon’s natural habitat.
This is partially because raccoons are so adaptable. They can thrive in urban, rural, and suburban settings. In residential areas, they are most known for living off of improperly stored pet food and garbage cans that haven’t been secured. But in a wooded setting, they can get by eating insects, birds, nuts, fruits, and seeds.
They are simply one of the most versatile creatures around. Whatever their environment dictates, they find a way to make it work. That is the primary reason that the raccoon population has continued to explode despite the natural impact of more humans on Earth.
City Raccoons May Actually Be More Intelligent Than Country Raccoons
Generally speaking, most people in the scientific community view raccoons as highly intelligent animals. But there are distinct differences in the way they learn based on their setting. While “country” raccoons, those living in a heavily wooded area, are generally smart, the “city” raccoon has different, more diverse challenges.
This is mostly because the “city” raccoon has the added human element. So, where those obstacles may not exist in the woods, they are plentiful in an urban setting and the raccoon is forced to adapt and outsmart those human-made obstacles regularly to get to food or shelter.
There have even been studies to show that raccoons learned to avoid major traffic intersections. Those same studies have even shown that urban raccoons can be more adaptive at getting garbage can lids open – a major source of food – than their country counterparts.
Simply put, raccoons are versatile, intelligent survivors that can make the most out of any situation or setting. The more challenges they face, the more likely they are to solve those problems and get to their goal.