Raccoons can live almost anywhere — including places they aren't welcome, like attics — but the adaptable mammals are especially at home in trees. Their nimble limbs and dexterous paws help them scurry up and down trunks with ease, and they're among the few animals capable of descending a tree headfirst.
Yet like many animals, raccoons are often awkward in childhood. Young raccoons, known as cubs or kits, rely heavily on their mothers' guidance to pick up key skills in the first few months of their lives. And as the video above illustrates, even learning to climb a tree can be surprisingly laborious for everyone involved.
Filmed last week by Washington photographer Jeffrey Reid, the 86-second vignette captures a mother raccoon's struggle to cajole a cub who doesn't quite get the hang of climbing. It begins at the base of a tree in Reid's yard, where the mother lifts her cub up to the bark with her forelimbs but can't convince it to grab on.
She then carries the cub higher in the tree by biting onto its nape, a catlike strategy often employed by mother raccoons when their cubs first leave the den. This can make climbing difficult even for an old pro, however, so she leaps onto a nearby roof to regroup. After briefly staring down the camera, she again pushes her obtuse offspring against the trunk in hopes its climbing instincts will kick in.
When that fails, she leaps to the tree herself and models proper technique. But instead of following, the cub slips off the roof and has to climb back up the rain gutter. The mother eventually returns to the roof, and after a few more neck-biting attempts, the pair has a breakthrough. By lifting her cub to the tree while bridging the gap with her hind legs, the mother's patience pays off — at least partly.
Raccoon cubs often join their mothers for outings like this at 8 to 10 weeks of age, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and by 12 weeks they roam alone for several nights before returning home. This cub doesn't seem to have that kind of independence yet, but there's still time. Young raccoons in Washington typically stay with their mothers during their first winter, the WDFW notes, before seeking out their own territories early the next spring.
And if all else fails, maybe this cub could try settling down in an attic somewhere. It seems pretty good at climbing up gutters.
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