By Jennifer Aitkens from Guelph Ontario, Canada (Treed Raccoons) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsIf you walk anywhere around Oakland at night, sooner or later you will almost certainly encounter raccoons.

They can be very interesting to observe from afar, since they regularly get themselves into all kinds of unusual situations — climbing onto roofs, raiding cat food stashes on porches, dropping into sewers, etc. Just remember to keep a respectful distance — unlike many native animals around here, which are afraid of humans or at least reticent, raccoons are genuinely gangsta; they really don’t give a $%&* and will not hesitate to come at you if you get too close.

Also, they cannot be sweet-talked. You can try, and they may even appear to listen, but ultimately their attitude toward you is that as a human, you represent (at best) a distraction, and (more likely) a threat — but in any case, they have important business to attend to. So by all means, enjoy their strange presence — which often seems like an odd mix of bear, cat and human — but don’t disturb them, and definitely don’t get in their way. As they go about their business so purposefully, you may hear them making eerily human-sounding noises like coughs, grumbling, muttering, throat clearing, etc. It’s pretty unnerving. Also, their eyes, when reflected by flashlight, usually glow orange, unlike the green or yellow of cats. Note that some might look like they keep themselves pretty clean, while others will be buzzing with lice. It’s best to give all of them plenty of space.

I really don’t know where they hang out during the day, but I have my suspicions. In the 70’s, when I’d be walking past the Embarcadero Pergola on my way to school, after a rain I’d look down into the lake … and the two main things I’d usually see floating there, collected against the float barriers that used to be there, were tennis balls … and drowned baby raccoons. (As Too $hort often observed, “game is hard in the big Oak land …”)

It can’t be easy being a wild animal on these mean streets, so please cut these guys some slack. They’re beautiful animals whose territory we invaded, but they have so far been very gracious about putting up with us!


Raccoon Sightings

Time/Date Location Details
1/26/13, around midnight Broadway and MacArthur Two extremely huge raccoons crossed Broadway and walked through a hospital parking lot
11/24/12, around midnight Euclid Avenue near Grand a family of four chilling on a driveway.
2013-02-19, 11:15 PM Perkins & Warwick Two medium fellas walked up my front stairs. They froze when I said hello


Learn more about other animals in Oakland: