National Geographic : 1956 Dec
Robert C. Hermes, National Audubon Society Raccoon: Amiable Rogue in a Black Mask Tough, Curious, and Unawed by Man or Dog, This Bear-faced Rascal Shows a Sense of Humor and Takes Civilization in Stride BY MELVIN R. ELLIS E XCEPT for Br'er Fox, no scalawag with taking ways has aroused as much favorable comment as the ring-tailed raccoon, which looks like a little brother to the bear. In folklore, in hunting stories, and in news columns this black-masked mammal, native only to the Americas, gets away with just about everything, and the public loves him for it. The coon's behavior isn't due to bad tem per. What drives him chiefly, I think, is curiosity, a strong appetite, and a determina tion not to give ground. Not much, anyway. If men cut a coon's wood lots to build a summer cottage, they can expect the animal to come and live in the fireplace chimney. Fill in the creek where raccoons catch shiners and chubs, and you will hear your garbage cans go rattling over at midnight. Pour con crete, and coons will make themselves at home in the culverts under the road. Coons take civilization in stride and grow fat where lampposts have replaced trees. About a thousand raccoons, for example, set tled in the fine homes on Wisconsin's Lake Geneva in 1950, when the summer residents dispersed for the winter. Subsequent hunts forced the gray army to retreat, but survivors filtered back into vacant attics and garages, and some coon families took over entire mansions. Newspapers headlined the story: "Coons Strike It Rich!"