Racoons and Food-Washing: Everything You Need to Know
Category : Food Hygiene
You may have heard of the myth that raccoons “wash” their food before eating. Whenever they stay near water sources, raccoons wash their food in the water and roll it around in their paws before eating. The story even extends to their name, Procyon lotor, which means “washing bear.”
However, most animals don’t normally wash their food; it isn’t a natural habit for them. Raccoons can also be carriers of disease (e.g. rabies and roundworm), which calls into question how sanitary they really are.
What You Need to Know about Raccoons
Raccoons are naturally intelligent and curious animals, which helps them thrive even in urban environments where they have to compete with humans. These traits are what make raccoons so good at rummaging for food in homes or garbage.
A raccoon’s hands allows them to process the world around them. Like primates, raccoons use a combination of sight and touch to grasp objects. Raccoon hands are very dextrous, allowing them to grasp and manipulate objects (which can explain how they can get at secure trash). Their hands also contain many touch receptors that help them sense their surroundings. In a way, raccoons use their hands to “see” when foraging and moving, especially in the dark.
How It Works
To better understand raccoons and their habit of washing their food, scientists have studied raccoons and their behaviour. Captive raccoons have been observed “washing’ their food by repeatedly dipping and rolling in the water.
However, this action isn’t so much washing the food as the raccoon needing to use their hands to sense the world properly. This behaviour is more a way for the raccoon to feel and assess the objects they’re holding. Raccoons in the wild normally search everywhere and dip their hands in water to sense their environment properly.
In captivity, washing their hands in water is an outlet for that need. In dry enclosures, raccoons rub and roll their food even without water, and tend to rub their hands together even when not holding anything.
A raccoon’s hands feature nerve clusters similar to humans, which makes them sensitive to touch. Scientists speculate that raccoons wash their food to increase their tactile sensitivity. When raccoons dunk their food, the water stimulates the nerves on their hands, giving them more specific information about what they are holding.
If you’ve seen raccoons at the edge of a pond, you may have seen them tapping along until they find something edible. Raccoons generally use their hands to find food instead of their eyes. Rolling their food around in their hands just helps them visualize their food and help them get it into their mouths. This is an important action for raccoons as omnivores. Because raccoons can eat so many things, it’s important that they be able to find out what is and isn’t edible.
The myth that raccoons do wash their food continues because raccoons are still seen dunking their food into water in the wild. However, when you see raccoons “washing” their food, you’ll know why they do it. When you do see raccoons, contact pest control services for raccoon removal in Toronto. Washing their food doesn’t make raccoons sanitary, and they can carry harmful diseases. Give pest control a call to avoid any raccoon trouble.
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