The Mesquite raccoons are the masked bandit of the wild that are known for their thieving behavior. They are omnivores that will eat plants and small mammals. They have successfully adapted on the lives at the urban areas. When in the wild, they will commonly eat fruits and nuts. They have been blamed for 87% of the damages on the corn crops. Perhaps one of the most baffling behaviors of this creature is their habit of washing their food. This is most especially true to those raccoons that dwell close to a body of water.
The Food Washing Myth of the Texas Raccoon
Raccoon has a scientific name of Procyon lotor which literally translates to ‘washing bear'. Experts used to believe that their habit of washing their food is an act of sanitary. There is also a myth that the raccoon do not contain enough saliva. They think that washing their food is a way to easily swallow the food.
Softening Their Food
The Texas raccoons that are in captivity have been observed to repeatedly dunk their food in the water which led some people to believe that this is meant to soften their food. Unfortunately, it was discovered that this behavior is not a way to prepare their food. This is simply a method that the raccoon use to sense their food. They are actually feeling the foods rather than washing them. The theory behind the food washing has become stronger after some raccoons have been discovered to rub their food on dry areas. You will also notice that some raccoons will often rub their hands even if they are not holding a food.
The Persistence of the Myth
The myth behind the food washing habit of the Texas raccoon has persisted due to the fact that the raccoons are constantly handling and rolling their prey while foraging for foods in the water. This may really appear like they are washing the food. The truth is, the raccoons do not have an excellent grip on their prey due to their missing opposable thumb. This is why they will hold the object using their two hands. They will also roll the object into their hands. In case this happens close to a body of water, people will indeed interpret that it is an act of food washing.
The Truth behind Food Washing
In reality, the raccoons will not really wash their food like the humans. They will constantly hunt for their foods in the water and their manner of handling their food will appear like they are washing food. When they are eating their food, they do not care about how clean it is. The raccoons will employ a combination of touch and sight to grasp their object.
Raccoons have a sensitive sense of touch. The nerve grouping on their Mesquite hands is somehow similar to primates including the humans. By touching the food, their central nervous system can process a lot of information about the object such as the temperature, the size, weight, and texture.