Personal Musings

Wild Encounters on the Run: Mama Raccoon

Excuse me, have you seen the tomatoes dear sir?

I went for a five mile run this afternoon. On my way back, I passed by a raccoon chilling in someone’s front yard, patting the ground like a squirrel burying a nut. About 15 feet separated us.

I said, “Hello, Mrs. Raccoon.”

Female I presume since it was early evening (about 2:30 PM). The raccoon did not respond. Odder had it.

“Hello, Mr. Human.”

I considered snapping a photo, but thought better of it. Someone reading this may already be thinking, “Raccoon… in the day time… could have rabies.”

Out of precaution, I left my phone in my running belt. It seems anytime someone sees an animal like a fox, raccoon, or skunk where I live, and it’s not nighttime, the automatic assumption is rabies — and they call Animal Control. I get it. I used to be like this too. Today, it even crossed my mind.

I asked myself, “How fast could a rabid raccoon run if a rabid raccoon could run-run?”

In writing this essay, I’ve learned pretty damn fast: 9-15 MPH. The average human can sprint 14 MPH. So while I may have knocked out a new personal record (PR for you runners out there looking for lingo), it appears the raccoon could have caught me if it wanted.

The reality of why a raccoon would be out in the day

Rabies, probably not.

Mama with babies, probably so.

Even nocturnal animals pop up in the daytime when they have more mouths to feed. Think: waking up at 2 AM with your own newborn and prepping a bottle while the little nightmare cries their eyes out.

If the animal is caught, it gets separated from its young. As a result, the young starve to death.

The curious case of the missing tomatoes

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a raccoon during the day. A few years ago, I was clearing out weeds in my yard. There’s a drain pipe right smack dab in the middle of my front yard. A real beaut.

I walked over to the drain pipe and bent down at the opening to grab a handful of weeds; and as I did, a raccoon backed out (tail first) nearly into my hands.

I thought it was a striped tail cat at first. A big feral cat. We have a few of those in the area.



I froze for a second. As I did, the raccoon, unbeknownst of my presence, turned around. We were eye to eye.

It looked at me like “Ahhh, hooooo-maaaaan!” and shot back into the drain pipe. As it did, I took off to the side of my house almost clocking myself in the face with a low hanging tree branch from our Dwarf Japanese Maple.

The discovery of the raccoon answered a lot of questions I had been having around our yard at the time. For example: what the hell is eating all the tomatoes off the vine at night?

Answer: Raccoon.

According to GardenProfy, “raccoons are the most common animal to feast on tomatoes, especially when they are ripe and juicy.

I knew squirrels ate them during the day because I’d seen the rascals. Same for deer. But most of the tomatoes being munched on were at night (rules out squirrels) and too far away for the deer to reach over the fence in the morning when they’d raid our vegetables.

Also, there was the whole, what is flipping over half our flower pots and saucers question.

Again: raccoon.

Looking for insects.

I caught the little booger in our backyard not long after our drain pipe run-in. She took off on her two hind legs like a mob boss running from the cops after an underground gambling ring bust.

If you’ve never seen a raccoon run on its two hind legs, let me tell you, it’s hilarious.

Raccoon during the day? Don’t panic

If you ever see a raccoon during the day, don’t panic. There are tell-tale signs for rabies (usually) and to this day only one human has ever died from rabies from a raccoon.

They are probably out foraging for junior hidden far out of sight saying in their raccoon voice, “Mama, what’s for breakfast? Mama, what’s for lunch? Mama, what’s for dinner? I’m hungry. My belly hurt.”

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Photo by Vincent Dörig on Unsplash

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