Why do raccoons go so deep into caves?

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Why do raccoons go so deep into caves?

Postby GroundquestMSA » Apr 14, 2012 11:48 am

I've often wondered what motivation raccoons have to travel hundreds of feet into caves. When surveying virgin passage in Reif's cave I was struck, not only by the thought that I was the first to see the cave, but also by the fact that plenty of mammals had been there before myself. In this cave, raccoons had traveled the entire length of the passage, over 2100'. Another survey last week was equally puzzling. The cave was only 90' long but very wet. At one point, we had to navigate an 8" passage with 4" of water. At the effective end of this cave, a too narrow canyon with about 6" of water, the animal trail kept right on going. I know raccoons are tiny, but why would they choose to slink through these kinds of areas?
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Re: Why do raccoons go so deep into caves?

Postby nathanroser » Apr 14, 2012 3:14 pm

What motivates people to do the same thing? :grin: The raccoons probably think we're crazy too.

Could be scavenging, certainly safe from predators in there.
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Re: Why do raccoons go so deep into caves?

Postby ian mckenzie » Apr 14, 2012 8:23 pm

To get to the other side?
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Re: Why do raccoons go so deep into caves?

Postby David Grimes » Apr 14, 2012 9:25 pm

Raccoons are very curious animals so I would guess there is the possibility that it just wants to see whats there. My family has raised many raccoons both as pets and for rehabilitation and most people would be surprised how similar their thought process is to a child's.

That is my best guess, they simply want to explore just like you. If there is a stream far back into the cave they may be making return trips for easy to catch cave crawfish since raccoons absolutely love to eat them.

On a side note I have had the opportunity to explore a cave that was used for years by coyotes as a den. They too had gone very far into the cave, I cannot say the distance for sure since the cave is not surveyed but I would say the tracks went at least 1500 feet into the cave.
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Re: Why do raccoons go so deep into caves?

Postby GroundquestMSA » Apr 14, 2012 11:31 pm

David Grimes wrote:Raccoons are very curious animals so I would guess there is the possibility that it just wants to see whats there. My family has raised many raccoons both as pets and for rehabilitation and most people would be surprised how similar their thought process is to a child's.


I too have raised raccoons and witnessed their curiosity, but since they can't exactly see anything back there, it's difficult to see the appeal of such exploration.
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Re: Why do raccoons go so deep into caves?

Postby driggs » Apr 15, 2012 11:13 pm

I am told that the copious raccoon scat throughout a large section of one of WV's largest caves is full of bat bones and fur.

One of the big considerations in the placement of bat-friendly cave gates is protecting flying bats from hungry raccoons waiting for a "delivery meal".
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Re: Why do raccoons go so deep into caves?

Postby Scott McCrea » Apr 16, 2012 5:39 am

I have always heard that raccoons like to have water when they eat, because it helps with their chewing/digestion. Therefore, they venture into caves to find water when there is not much surface water in karsty areas.
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Re: Why do raccoons go so deep into caves?

Postby tncaver » Apr 16, 2012 8:19 am

I've often seen raccoon tracks far back into caves with only one known entrance. It seems their curiosity lures them into surface holes which make their
way into large caves. Many times I've wished I could find those holes to dig open a second entrance that would enter a big cave miles from the known
entrance. Same can be said for cat tracks and bear tracks way back in some caves.
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Re: Why do raccoons go so deep into caves?

Postby Cheryl Jones » Apr 16, 2012 12:42 pm

Scott McCrea wrote:I have always heard that raccoons like to have water when they eat, because it helps with their chewing/digestion. Therefore, they venture into caves to find water when there is not much surface water in karsty areas.


Curious, I checked Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raccoon
Scroll down to "Dousing"
It says in part
"Raccoons sample food and other objects with their front paws to examine them and to remove unwanted parts. The tactile sensitivity of their paws is increased if this action is performed underwater, since the water softens the horny layer covering the paws. However, the behavior observed in captive raccoons in which they carry their food to a watering hole to "wash" or douse it before eating has not been observed in the wild."

So maybe it's just that raccoons have caver blood too, and we should begin a program to outfit them with lights so they can explore further and have more fun. And then also affix cameras to their heads and send them down small passages. :gotdark:

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Re: Why do raccoons go so deep into caves?

Postby Teresa » Apr 19, 2012 4:17 pm

Image

Well, bein's as Cheryl asked: Travis T. Traveler here. I've been to a number of MVORs...even had my picture in the guidebooks. That's where I won this nifty helmet. It's a whole lot easier seeing crawdads in the dark with this light, and the switch is so easy I can turn it on all by myself.

We go deep in caves because we smell food. Now, most raccoons are content with crawdads and fish out of the pond or the river, but some of us...we'll, we're picky about what we eat. I like those cave animals like grotto salamanders, and Ozark cavefish, and cave crayfish, um, crawdads. They taste different than the sunburned ones. Sort of like people will grow asparagus in the dark so that it is white and not green, and they eat blind cave broccoli. Did you ever wonder why those white cave animals are all rare or endangered or threatened. Yep. It's because of us. We like tasty treats. We can smell them, but they're hard to find in the dark, so I think the NSS should take up a donation and buy all the raccoons in North America headlights.

You know, there aren't many animals that can type. We can. And we'd be happy to map those little passages...just get us some stubby pencils and little bitty clipboards, and a backpack with velcro straps so it will be easy to get in and out of it. I can even write cursive. We'll map for free and clean those animals out of those caves, and then we'll be so proud, we'll leave a little survey station to mark what we did. You can find fishbones in them if you look real hard. I heard a story from my Aunt Rascal that in the 1960s when they was mapping Fantastic Caverns they had some Ozark cavefish in an underground pool and they'd take tourists in there, until one day they looked and the fish were gone. For a while they thought a little baby had gotten loose and ate them, but it turned out it was my Uncle Homer. We need a moment of silence here...Uncle Homer met his demise when he didn't hear the jeep-tram coming. He stopped and looked at the bright light, and that was the last thing he saw.

Well, I hear Teresa coming, so I better scat. But just remember: that light down that little passage might not be another human. It might be me. C Ya.

Trav

P.S. Someone asked about bat fur and bones. I Hate to admit it, but the powdered sugar on bat noses these days just doesn't taste very good, so we're going back on the fish and amphibian diet.
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Re: Why do raccoons go so deep into caves?

Postby Jon » Apr 23, 2012 2:48 am

I know of a cave in AZ (which I wont speak of Specifically) which was a Coon haven. There was only one tiny drip ( a single soda straw) in the reputed 2 1/2 miles of passage. A friend of mine now claims there is a second tiny drip. Both drips couldn't sustain a field mouse. I do know that they left fields of presents in the cave. Traps were set and 40 plus critters were removed and relocated MANY miles away, yet at least 10 (more than that likely) remained too smart to be trapped. Yes it was a frequented cave but trash inside was not a problem....outside ....well that's another story. I will say that even the craziest cat lover with a herd of cats couldn't duplicate the litter box effect if they didn't empty them but once a year. A fun mazy cave except for the turd tundras. They also can be a bit territorial and in tight spaces ....well I think raccoons are for caps, not caves.
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Re: Why do raccoons go so deep into caves?

Postby aurandeler » Mar 8, 2013 4:27 am

Actually raccoon needs cold, moist environment, hence they dig into the soil in the farms and deep into caves.
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Re: Why do raccoons go so deep into caves?

Postby MUD » Mar 19, 2013 7:25 am

Because they can. :big grin:
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