By Laura Scully
They scamper around at night, their bandit-masked faces adding to the impression they are up to mischief. Some consider them vermin, while others admire their ingenuity.
A mammal native to North America, the raccoon has been featured in petroglyphs and Native American mythology. They average 16 to 28” in length and can weigh between 11 and 57 lbs. Omnivorous creatures, their lifespan is usually between 1 to 3 years, although raccoons in captivity live longer. Females often share space together, and birth 2 to 5 “kits” in the spring.
Keeping them as pets is discouraged, even though President Calvin Coolidge had one called “Rebecca.” It should be noted she was initially intended for Thanksgiving dinner. Raccoons have long been a source of food for humans. They were featured in the first edition of “The Joy of Cooking” and thousands are still eaten annually in our country, especially in the South. Their fur has also been popular for clothing, especially around the mid 1950s when TV and film dramatized frontiersman Davy Crockett wearing his iconic coonskin cap.
You usually hear them before you see them. California has several varieties of this tiny bird, with the Anna’s Hummingbird a common sight in our neighborhood. Averaging between 3 to 5” in length, they are named for the sound caused by their wing-flapping, up to 80 times per second. Not surprisingly, they have the highest metabolism of all animals (except insects.)
They can fly as fast as 34 mph. When courting, male hummingbirds can dive at over 50 mph, from heights of around 100 feet. The diving speed is about 10G of gravitational force (twice what most humans can endure.) Hummingbirds drink flower nectar with their long tongues and are prolific pollinators.