Friday, November 12, 2010


Raccoons are another one of my favorite animals. As a boy I dreamed of having one as a pet. While in grade school, probably 5th or 6th grade, I ordered a baby raccoon from a mail order catalogue from some place in the midwest or back east. It came and it was no baby. It was at least a teenager and it was meaner than all get-out. It had nasty sharp teeth and it did not hesitate to use them. I had to handle it with gloves and the bites still hurt. It never did tame sufficiently to handle it without getting bit. I believe I paid about $50.00 for it and I ended up selling it to a friend, Steven Gould, for $5.00 or $10.00. Below, a book on raccoons I still have with a 1954 publication date. The book dates from before my acquiring my raccoon.  
A picture of a raccoon from the book.
After Judy and I were married and moved to California, we were visiting my parents on the east bench near the mouth of Emigration Canyon. My brother, Chris, said he'd found a raccoon den up in the canyon and I asked him to take me to it. Chris, Matt and I went and ultimately, Chris crawled into a hole under a rock to retrieve two cute baby raccoons. We brought them back to Mom's and I was a little taken aback by how angry she was with me. At her insistence, we called Hogle Zoo to ask if the mother raccoon would take the babies back if we took them back to the den and we were told the mother would. So the next morning, we took them back up the canyon and put them back in the hole where we'd found them.

We have seen a number of raccoons in Redlands over the years, usually emerging from culverts in the street, or on one occasion, a whole family in the orange groves along Overcrest. Many years ago, while Judy and I were eating in the restaurant at the top of the Palm Springs Tram, we enjoyed a group of four or five very large raccoons begging for food outside on the patio over looking the canyon below. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of any of the raccoons.

Also years ago, I ran across a book with a title that I could not resist. I had to buy it. It was titled, "I wish I could give my son a wild raccoon."
It was a collection of short stories which had nothing to do with the title, but was one sentence from one of the short stories. However, that one sentence embodied so much of my own feelings that it carried meaning for me.
I feel that I have shared my love of animals and the outdoors with my children. Sam and Andrew have both seen desert bighorn sheep in the wild, in the Tarn near the summit of Mount San Gorgonio; we all saw and fed gray foxes at our campsite up Painted Canyon in the Mecca Hills; but my children did not ever have a wild raccoon. I would have wished it otherwise. However, they did have other animals around the house which gave them a flavor of the wild kingdom.

Updated: February 2014

I was in Florida in January and visiting the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near the Kennedy Space Center just off the Atlantic Coast. I was driving down the Biolab Road and encountered a raccoon meandering among the swampy bushes. I was able to get several pictures and was very excited. A couple drove by that I had shared comments with several times along the drive, including an osprey eating a fish in a tree and a number of alligators. To my surprise, they didn't seem interested in the raccoon at all, did not stop, just drove on. When I came home and mentioned it to one of my children, he said, "what's so exciting about a raccoon, you see them wandering around at night around Redlands all the time." That may be so, but I've never gotten a picture of one. And this is a real wild raccoon, not some dumpster diving creature living in a storm drain. I was as excited to see that raccoon as the bighorn sheep I've seen in Colorado.
Raccoon at Merritt Island NWR.
This picture captures a glimpse of its tail. 


  1. Ah yes, how I MISS those wild-animal-loose-in-the-house days. However, I have to admit, we've had some pretty fun experiences due to your love of wild things. Thanks for the memories.

  2. I wish I had been given a wild raccoon! However, a desert iguana, multiple rattlesnakes, tortoises, scorpions, etc. have taught me to love and fear animals. I love the inclusion of those two old books too!

  3. "Fools go where angels fear to tread." I don't know if I understood what might be waiting for me in that hole!

    Good times!

  4. Chris, I must admit I felt a little guilty letting you crawl down that hole. It could have been ugly if mama raccoon had decided to give you a whooping. Fortunately, it turned out okay. Those were very cute little raccoon babies.