Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Raccoons and Linnaeus

Raccoon eating coleslaw

This raccoon is enjoying the post-Fourth-of-July leftovers much more than he enjoyed our neighbors' kids' fireworks. In past years, we've had whole raccoon families visiting the porchlight for bugs, ransacking the shed in search of anything at all, and keeping company with Princess (most tolerant of cats) on the porch. This year, we haven't seen as many, although if the dry weather continues, they'll be here looking for water.

I recalled something about Linnaeus and a raccoon, and a quick search turned up Peter D. Tillman's synopsis of the March 15 Nature article on Linnaeus' pet.

Sjupp was a gift from King Adolf Fredrik around 1740; he was imported from New Sweden, a colony on the Delaware river in North America. Linnaeus observed that "what he liked best were eggs, almonds, raisins, sugared cakes, sugar and fruit" -- and he wasn't shy about asking for them, frisking any visitor for treats, no doubt a startling experience, as it was for Linnaeus's gardener, who panicked at Sjupp's demands, and suffered ever after: "Every time he smelt him [the gardener], [Sjupp] began making a noise like a seagull, a sign that he was extremely angry," Linnaeus reported. He had a watercolor of Sjupp hung in his summerhouse.

Sjupp met a sad end in the jaws of a dog in 1747. Linnaeus then dissected poor Sjupp, and published his description later in 1747.


Mike said...

Nice piece here. Several weeks ago, in the worst part of the recent drought, a young coon took up with my cats here and shared his evening repast with them. He stayed for several weeks and was on the proch nightly to eat and lounge around. Since the rains he has moved on but I suspect he will return this winter now that he knows he has friends here. lol

Rebecca Clayton said...

Early this morning we had a new family of racoon visitors. I like to see them, but when we start attracting a crowd, we have to encourage them to move on. Just like people, I guess.