raccoon on shoreline

“What do you want, lady? Can’t you see I’m busy?” (click to enlarge)

Almost everywhere we went last summer on our boating holiday in the Gulf Islands, raccoons were hard at work.

We watched them paw through the kelp at low tide, crunching on shore crabs and other tasty treats. If you look closely, you can see a bit of shell hanging from his/her mouth in the photo above. (A reminder, you can click twice on any of these photos to enlarge them and see all the details).

Raccoon swimming

We often saw raccoons standing in the shallows, gazing upward in a deep meditation while reaching deftly about underwater to locate and snag any edibles.

Raccoon standing in shallows, gazing upward

Raccoons have an amazing sense of touch in their front paws, and this tactile ability is their most important sense in terms of survival. Even more impressive, they can stand in cold water for hours without any loss of that delicate touch – in my books, that has to rank as a superpower. (Here’s an interesting article on raccoons’ tactile sense.)

One afternoon we watched a mother teaching her two kits the moves involved in foraging along the shoreline – then abruptly ushering them into the forest when she spotted our kayaks.

Another day I watched from my dinghy as a solo raccoon took a lengthy swim from one island to another, ignoring me despite the fact I was only a couple of oars-lengths away.


The oddest sighting among our frequent encounters took place one sunny morning at Wallace Island, close behind our anchored boat. It was low tide, and two raccoons inched along the steep shore, noses down all the while. They seemed to be licking the algae-encrusted rocks, though we weren’t sure why.

Raccoons appearing to eat seaweed

Plant foods make up a third of a raccoon’s diet, so maybe the seaweed was especially tasty that day – or perhaps they needed the minerals that this rocky salt lick offered. At any rate, they were there for a long time, diligently cleaning the shoreline with their tongues.

We were honoured and charmed to watch all of these masked bandits, so at home and at ease in their natural habitat – going skillfully about their daily business without any conflict over gardens, bird feeders, fish ponds or other mundane human concerns.

About Laurie MacBride, Eye on Environment

Photographer focused on nature and nautical on the BC coast

6 responses »

  1. Sharon McInnes says:

    Did you happen to hear the CBC story this week about some new research on raccoons in the Gulf Islands? It might have been on Quirks and Quarks. Very interesting situation here.

  2. Fred Bailey says:

    A nice salute to the citizens of raccoon Heaven, where we’re blessed to live. I saw one in my recent travels of the urban variety. Back-light by car lights he was HUGE!
    Some of my favourite creatures are these. Awesome photos as ever.

  3. Sherry Galey says:

    I just realized how rarely I have seen raccoons in a natural environment — they are quite charming. Your images and text are fascinating.

    • Thanks, Sherry. People seem often to dislike them, but I think it’s because they’re seeing them in a context in which people (or their pets) and raccoons are in competition for space, resources etc. It’s a testament to raccoons’ intelligence that they’ve been able to cope so well with urban life – though I expect the ones that live out on all these smaller islands are happier than big city raccoons. 🙂

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