It may not be a native to the UK, but there are many of these masked intruders out there in the wild – to the despair of birdwatchers and other native wildlife conservationists. Raccoons raid not just our bins, they have also discovered the delights of raiding our bird tables. As the perfectly equipped scavenger, raccoons in Stinkforthshire will have no trouble making a living and are therefore perfect for Willow to magically transform into.
Don’t be too hasty in your judgment, dear jury – as usual it’s the fault of human villains, who thoughtlessly bought raccoon kittens and dumped them the very moment the animals had reached maturity – no longer cute, cuddly and playful, adult raccoons can be quite aggressive and difficult to keep.
Their native homelands are really in North and Central America, but when in 2007 UK laws changed with regard to the keeping of unusual pets like raccoons, lots of foolish people thought, why not keep one – without ever making sure they knew enough about the proper keeping of such creatures.
The raccoon family consists of 19 rather different looking species, to which our little bushy-tailed bandit also belongs. The Procyonidae, as they are formally known, include coatis from South America, kinkajous, ringtails and olingos.
All of them are omnivores and they share the feature of very dexterous forepaws and almost human like digits. Raccoons are masters at raiding whatever happens across their way, using their paws to unpeel food scraps from paper wrappings for example. In the wild raccoons will eat whatever is available, from insects and small vertebrates to worms, fruit, nuts or seeds. They love to hunt for aquatic prey such as snails, crustaceans and small fish.
Male raccoons might travel alone or as part of a group, while females will live as small groups of up to four individuals. Like all Procyonidae raccoons are very vocal, with barking, squeaking, snarling and hissing. They love to sleep in large communal dens.
Throughout the Willow the Vampire series I want my vampire heroine to experience what it’s like to live in different environments – underground like a mole, foraging in our dustbins and gardens like a raccoon or flying like a bat and hunting for insects with the help of sonar. She will experience the joys of homebuilding as a badger, curse the discomfort of being a water vole when your home gets flooded and will no doubt enjoy a day out as a vain Wildcat on the prowl.
As the series continues, it will become clear, why Willow the Vampire is getting to know animals on such intimate terms – but there won’t be any spoilers from me…you’ll just have to be patient and read for yourself!
If you could keep an unusual pet without the animal suffering in any way from being kept as a pet, what would that animal be?