Known as the ‘masked bandit’, this intelligent and fascinating mammal can be found throughout Costa Rica. Although you will most commonly find raccoons in forests, you are also likely to come across them in coastal, mountainous or urban areas. They have a tendency to use burrows already dug out by other mammals.

Raccoon

Raccoon

Raccoons are usually nocturnal due to their dark mask which helps reduce flare, their vision is significantly enhanced at night. They also have a very keen sense of smell and use urine to mark their territory. On top of sight and smell, they have exceptional hearing allowing them to pick up the quietest of noises. Amazingly, they are even able to hear earthworms moving underground.

Raccoons have a very varied diet thanks to their environmental adaptability and ability to find food anywhere and everywhere. They eat seafood (crayfish, oysters and clams), insects such as earthworms and slugs and larger animals like frogs, turtles, snakes and even small birds, muskrats and rabbits. They balance this meat-filled diet by also enjoying vegetation such as berries, acorns and corn. This abundance of food allows them to gain plenty of body fat in preparation for winter.

Although some captive raccoons have been known to live between 15 and 20 years old, the life expectancy of a raccoon in the wild is just 2 to 3 years. Despite their resilience and resourcefulness the number of raccoons is unfortunately on the decline. The primary reason for this is hunting and fur harvesting for clothes but it is also due to the fact that their natural habitat is being damaged by modernisation. Although they may be perceived by some as pests who scavenge for food, it would be a great tragedy if these brilliant animals were to ever join the endangered list.

Kerry Russell