One of the goals I’ve had since I wrote the first book in the series is to provide as accurate a view as possible into wild lives. The point is to show how relatable non-human species are when you take the time to observe them. You might be surprised!
This blog covers some questions and answers about some of those surprises:
- Do mother raccoons really adopt orphaned kits?
- Is there really a feeding hierarchy?
- Aren’t male raccoons dangerous to kits?
Do mother raccoons really adopt orphaned kits?
In Raccoon Retreat, Roxy, Rufus, and Renae help another mother raccoon protect her single kit from a hungry mother fox and pups. That mother, Rina, invites them to tag along with her as she seeks food and shelter.
You might be wondering, does this actually happen in real life? The answer is: yes! On Facebook, where I follow multiple wildlife rehab pages, I’ve seen several posts about mother raccoons adopting orphans either in the wild (mainly in human neighborhoods where this can be observed), or in rehab facilities, as explained in this video:
Of course, Rina’s “adoption” is partly in relation to the trauma of habitat loss. As the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife explains, “By 12 weeks, the kits roam on their own for several nights before returning to their mother. The kits remain with their mother in her home range through winter, and in early spring seek out their own territories.”
Mother raccoons are nothing if not tenacious though. While reunions aren’t always possible, this video from the Humane Society of the United States showed how mothers can return for their kits even after days of separation (hint, hint):
Is there really a feeding hierarchy?
They had arrived at the back of the humans’ den. As Smokey had said, big bowls had been filled with food and water and set outside. But cats and raccoons weren’t the only animals who wanted it! A pair of mother opossums ate contentedly, side by side, as their joeys clung to their backs. A mother skunk with two kits ate from a second bowl. The cats watched from nearby, their tails twitching.
“Go on,” Smokey said. “Kits and mamas eat first. Just approach slowly, so you don’t startle the skunks.”
I actually stumbled over this small factoid during research, and it seemed appropriate to include. The Wildlife Rescue League puts it this way:
Raccoon mothers with cubs enjoy a privileged position in the raccoon hierarchy. Other raccoons will defer to a female with cubs in feeding situations. This privileged status lasts as long as the cubs remain with the mother.
They also, according to PBS Nature, do den in gender-specific groups.
Aren’t male raccoons dangerous to kits?
One of the things that stuck out to readers of Raccoon Rescue was Mama’s observation that raccoon dads eat their young. This is, sadly, true — male raccoons will kill litters as a form of dominance, ensuring their own bloodline survives.
So why would Smokey help the kits and not be a danger to them?
To my mind, he wouldn’t take the chance. They’re already almost grown, more than able to defend themselves, and Rina’s there with them, ready to defend her kit Reese. She’d be absolutely ferocious even without three helpers, so it’s unlikely Smokey would even try. Instead he takes the high road and helps everyone out — again according to that hierarchy.
What do you want to know about raccoons, or the events in the books? Ask in the comments! And if you haven’t read them yet, learn more here!