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Raccoons Quick and Adept Hunters

raccoon pond scat 134Not everyone enjoys discovering what an animal eats by dissecting its scat, but for those of us who do, the revelations can be worth the effort. One quick glance at the shape and size of the pictured scat confirmed that a raccoon had been in the vicinity and bits of crayfish exoskeleton in it indicated that the raccoon fed from the nearby pond. Further examination of the contents revealed that raccoons are fast enough to catch dragonflies – something I wouldn’t have necessarily known and most likely wouldn’t observe in the field. Who would have guessed that raccoons are quick enough or interested enough in dragonflies to catch them? (NB: Do not do as I did – do not touch or dissect raccoon scat as it can contain bacteria, ticks and Baylisascaris roundworms which can cause neurological damage.)

As an aside, I thought it might be of interest for readers to know what goes into the making of a Naturally Curious post. The following describes my morning yesterday: out for a walk, visit a pond, see scat on a big, wooden raft that has floated near shore, manage to leap onto raft to take a picture of the scat, photograph scat and then look up to see that my leap has shoved the raft away from the edge of the pond, and I’ve drifted out into the middle of said pond. Balancing the camera on the raft, I paddle, first with one hand and then with both (at one corner), trying to move this 15’ x 15’ wooden structure in the direction I want it to go. Make a little progress, but not much. Beloved chocolate lab swims up to raft, I hold onto her neck and she pulls us to shore, camera intact. And I haven’t even begun to dissect, photograph, label and write about the contents of what led me on this adventure!

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34 responses

  1. joan waltermire

    Yay, Emma! And at her age, too. Great post, Mary — I can’t imagine a raccoon catching a dragonfly in the air. Do you suppose it was night when it caught them? I’m not sure where they spend the night, but maybe just on vegetation at pond edge?
    Your loyal pal

    August 20, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    • Hi Joan! My thought was maybe the raccoon stayed very still on the raft while dragonflies landed and basked in the sun, unaware that a furry paw was just a flash away, but your guess is as good as mine!

      August 20, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      • I once watched a song sparrow eat a chalk-fronted corporal. The sparrow was just sitting on a stone wall when the dragonfly happened to land next to it. The bird grabbed the bug instantly and ate it quickly.

        August 21, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    • Not only Emma’s age, how about mine???

      August 20, 2014 at 1:51 pm

      • Patsy Mathews

        I think you and Emma have NO age limitations. Dogs are just the best!

        August 20, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    • Nancy Goodman

      So Mary what the raccoon probably did was to catch recently emerged or injured dragonflies. It is unlikely that they would be caught in flight by the raccoon. Emerging dragonflies are a food that many birds use to feed their young and some even time their breeding around major dragonfly hatchings.

      August 20, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      • Hi Nancy,
        I figured the dragonflies were basking, at the very least, when caught, but newly-emerged and early morning dragonflies (or injured) are certainly vulnerable.

        August 20, 2014 at 2:44 pm

  2. Patsy

    Ok, this post is priceless. Not only am I an avid scat lover, but the story of the raft is brilliant. This is the kind of thing that happens to me. I wonder what the animals think of us!

    August 20, 2014 at 1:10 pm

  3. Your words today created a lovely picture of your rafting adventure and rescue. All in the name of curiosity.

    August 20, 2014 at 1:11 pm

  4. LOL sounds like a good morning to me. After looking at what was left of the dragon fly I have to wonder what if any was the nutritional value in it for the raccoon? Love your posts. I am planning to use them with my students this year. Keep them coming…

    August 20, 2014 at 1:16 pm

  5. Rachael Cohen

    Mary, it’s fun to read about your adventures, as well as to learn about the raccoon scat.

    August 20, 2014 at 1:19 pm

  6. Michael Blust

    Dragonflies that are emerging are very susceptible to predation until they have hardened up their wing suffieiently for extended flight. In addition, cold dragonflies (during the night and early morning) are susceptible if accessible. Finally, females that are laying eggs in water, mud, or aquatic vegetation are also more prone to predation.

    August 20, 2014 at 1:20 pm

  7. Louise

    Hi Mary,
    Can’t help but remember when our chocolate lab pulled us around the DAR lake. She decided that water is not for kayaks or sitting on in any way – water is for swimming – and jumped out of the kayak, pulled us across the lake and into a tree fall quagmire! She is now 7.5 years and still a very strong swimmer! Glad you (and camera) were rescued so gallantly. Thanks for the posts – I look forward to sharing them with my kindergarteners.
    Louise

    August 20, 2014 at 1:27 pm

  8. Dianne and Ed

    0h Mary, you are a MARVEL………thanks for sharing your” scat gathering adventure” and then your findings 🙂 🙂 Dianne

    August 20, 2014 at 1:36 pm

  9. Elizabeth Janeway

    Love your morning adventure on the raft…”up a creek without a paddle!” betsy

    Elizabeth Janeway ecjway1@aol.com

    August 20, 2014 at 1:46 pm

  10. Wow, you have a great job! And what a good rescue lab!

    August 20, 2014 at 2:13 pm

  11. Suzanne Elusorr

    Mary,

    I absolutely loved the description of your morning!

    And aren’t dogs just the world’s gift to humans!!

    Suzanne

    Suzanne Elusorr

    P. O. Box 88

    Orford, NH 03777

    603.491.9940

    August 20, 2014 at 2:14 pm

  12. J. Moody

    Love it! Thanks for bringing nature alive in so many interesting ways. Jane Moody

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    August 20, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    • It’s really my pleasure, Jane. Thank YOU for following my crazy life!

      August 20, 2014 at 2:43 pm

  13. Susan

    Mary,

    How did you know it was raccoon scat versus otter scat, which also contains crayfish parts and aquatic insects and is left on prominent objects in or near the water like rafts?

    August 20, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    • The shape and size of the scat told me it was raccoon, not otter…and it would be surprising not to find at least some fish scales in otter scat!

      August 20, 2014 at 2:42 pm

  14. Dick Bennett

    O love your posts. have sold/gifted several of your books. but this little sharing as a Total Gem. Thanks! Peace to thee and thine. dick bennett

    August 20, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    • Thank you so much, Dick. Same to you.

      August 20, 2014 at 3:53 pm

  15. Allyson Jutras

    Good morning, Mary,

    I enjoyed your description of what goes into a post. Got quite a chuckle. Glad that everything turned out alright. Thank goodness for women’s best friend!

    Allyson Jutras

    August 20, 2014 at 3:19 pm

  16. Linda Campany

    Marvelous story! Thanks for this and all the posts. Linda

    August 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm

  17. Michael Blust

    From what I can see of the dragonfly parts, they are mostly darners (Aeshna sp.) Darners do no tend to rest on horizontal surfaces. They prefer tree trunks or hanging from branches. However, some darners do oviposit in partially submerged branches or logs, so it is possible they were checking out the raft to oviposit.

    August 20, 2014 at 4:04 pm

  18. Such adventures you have! Yay, Emma!

    August 21, 2014 at 1:15 am

  19. SusanKTucker@comcast.net

    Mary,Can totally visualize your adventure! ThanK God for LABS!!!!! Susan

    August 21, 2014 at 1:29 am

  20. Irma Graf

    Mary, you are amazing!

    August 21, 2014 at 1:46 am

  21. Kathryn

    You do have so much fun, I’m sure! Thank goodness your pup was there to rescue you. We might not have heard from you for awhile!

    August 21, 2014 at 2:51 pm

  22. Jean Harrison

    What an adventure! You sure do go all out for your readers. And we appreciate it.

    August 21, 2014 at 3:12 pm

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