One of the most common North American mammals who live and hunt along the Alouette River, and around our town and gardens, is the cheeky raccoon.
He goes by many names, probably the most common is Bandit because of the black colouring of the fur around his eyes giving him the appearance of a Zorro like mask on his face.
There are several different species of raccoon around the world, but thanks to Walt Disney movies, ours is the most recognizable of them.
Reaching the size of a small dog, these nocturnal hunters are anything but cute and can give you a nasty bite.
Ever the opportunist, they will eat almost anything from mice, frogs, and insects to human garbage.
They are also not adverse to hand outs and become very adept at stealing anything unguarded.
You can find these animals from forest to your backyard and should not be encouraged by feeding them as they can set up home in your garden shed or attic in a twinkling of an eye.
Raccoons feed in a very particular way, dunking there food into water before eating it, there long nibble fingers can snatch a fish from the stream and undo a window catch with equal ease and can often be seen in the night rummaging around the back alleyways of Maple Ridge raiding the dumpsters.
During the summer months they are always on the lookout for food, storing up body fat for the winter when they spend most of their time sleeping in their den of choice.
A raccoon family can number from one kit up to five being born in early spring, it is not long before they are out looking for their own territory and scurrying along the river paths hunting up supper.
They have few natural enemies except man, but the biggest cause of death apart from cars is the disease distemper, which can decimate a racoon colony very quickly.
There is much research going on with regards to the intelligence of racoons, and it has been suggested they learn very quickly, mostly from playing with objects and watching us humans.
They are extremely inquisitive and like to check out everything they touch.
It has also been found that they use items as tools which would suggest a mind capable of problem solving.
So next time you catch a fleeting sight of a racoon remember, he may be looking at you with the same interest as you are watching him.
- Liz Hancock is a member of the Alouette River Management Society. She is also a writer, artist, environmentalist, and teacher of self-sustainable living.