Rise Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Trash Pandas

Before we get into this I want to apologize to my loyal followers (all ten of you) for not having posted anything since June.  So here goes:

“I hereby apologize for not having posted anything since June.” Happy now?

People have been studying animals for a long time, trying to find examples of how new species can arise from existing species, and even attempting to make new species through selective breeding.  For example, there has been a program going on in Russia for decades trying to breed silver foxes that exhibit the same friendliness toward humans as do dogs and maybe other species such as Komodo dragons, and hippopotamuses.

Here’s an unretouched photo of a genetically-engineered friendly silver fox.  We can tell it’s friendly because of the drooping ears, curly tail, and unusual coloration.  Also because the man is not holding his nose.  (Wild foxes have a “musky” smell.) But mostly we know this one is friendly because it’s not trying to snack on the man.

person holding silver fox
Friendly silver fox exhibiting a marked absence of biting, scratching, clawing and wiggling

In years gone by there have been other examples of this sort of change in animal behaviour, with cows starting to exhibit a love of water, polar bears starting to hunt Beluga Whale calves, and Grizzlies thinking seriously about mating with Polar Bears.

grizzly bear tussling with polar bear
Grizzly-Polar Bear foreplay
aquatic cows
Cows training for 2020 Olympic  200-metre paddle

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re also familiar with the concept of teenagers potentially mutating into creatures with huge eyes, long fingers and no mouth, due to texting 23 hours per day instead of interacting like normal human beings.  (My wife, for one, is convinced this is already happening.)  And don’t forget good old Secretariat The Horse, who won the Triple Crown back in 1970.  Secretariat ate the breakfast, lunch and dinner of all the other horses in the Belmont Stakes, when he won  by a freakish 25 lengths.

So clearly, animals aren’t standing still.  They’re probably busy watching all the Mission Impossible movies (starring Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt) and they’re learning mad skills.  Even the humble raccoon (Procyon lotor) is in on the game.

In mid-June of this year, the Dow Index fell about 20% for two days because half of the world’s population (well maybe not half) was occupied watching a raccoon free-solo the 20-storey UBS building (whatever that is) after being startled away from minding it’s own business and eating some pigeon eggs near a dumpster in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. (Yes, there ARE 20-storey buildings in Minnesota, in case you were sceptical.  And Scotch Tape® was also invented in Minnesota, FYI.  I think it should have been called Swedish Tape® though.)

Just look at this photo, would you?  See that tiny black blob?  THAT IS A RACCOON.  SCALING A FEATURELESS BLANK WALL.  WITH NO ROPE.  OR SCOTCH TAPE®.  BEING CHEERED ON BY EVERYONE IN MINNESOTA AND MANY OTHER PARTS OF SWEDEN.

raccoon scaling 20-storey building
Tom Cruise’s raccoon love child “Ethan” scaling a featureless wall

It took “Ethan” two days to finish the climb which included an overnight bivouac on a window ledge somewhere along the way.  In case you’ve never tried it, it’s no picnic bivouacking on a one-foot-wide ledge with no supper and no sleeping bag.  Mind you, clinging to the side of a building for hours on end using only your finger- and toenails is no picnic either.

And since you asked, rock climbs are graded via a complicated decimal system.  This climb was graded 5.15r and is off the top of the chart below for difficulty.  It’s off the bottom actually, but the climbs get harder as you go down the chart.  The “r” in 5.15r stands for raccoon, by the way.

grading systems

This next photo shows Ethan crushing the overhanging crux (hardest) move of the climb.  Not bad for a novice.

raccoon executing crux move on north face of UBS building
Ethan the raccoon on-sighting the North Face of UBS
“On-sighting” means strolling up to a rock climb you’ve never seen before and finishing it the first time.  In case you were wondering,
Needless to say, there are mountains(!) of images and tweets out there, posted by office workers on every floor of the UBS building, which document every inch of the journey.  Everyone was crossing their fingers, holding their breath and generally rooting for this animal, including wildlife photographer and lawyer, Paige Donnelly.
Exhibit A:
Below, Ethan was caught on camera performing a stretching routine before continuing the upward voyage, and was also thanking his lucky stars that he never got a mani-pedi before he went foraging for pigeon eggs.
raccoon by window
“As God is my witness, I’ll never eat pigeon eggs again.”
It all ended well though.  Ethan eventually made it to the top, was captured by the Wildlife Management Service folk, ate some soft cat food and was eventually released back into the suburbs somewhere southwest of the Twin Cities, and commenced climbing a 300-foot cell tower.
People went back to work; the Dow rebounded significantly.  Life went back to normal.

 

famous raccoon caged atop UBS building
Ethan atop UBS building, full of cat food and headed for a round of intensive neuroimaging studies before being released back into the wild

Scientists are busily hypothesizing what led the vertically-inclined animal to undertake its hazardous journey.  The leading theory is that it was bitten by a radioactive spider.  Or maybe a radioactive tick. Maybe it was the effect of exposure to environmental toxins or climate change.  Only time will tell.  I’m just saying we could be in for some tough times.  And some pretty tough raccoons.

If you think I’m over-reacting, check out this disturbing link pertaining to attacks perpetrated by a roving gang of raccoons in Abbottsford, B.C. in July 2018.

gang
Gang members caught emerging from sewer manhole in Abbottsford, B.C.

Like I said, Nature just doesn’t stand still.  Dr. Ian Malcolm, of Jurassic Park fame agrees with me, and I quote:

“No. I’m, I’m simply saying that life (raccoons included), uh… finds a way.

 

Next column: How not to repair a fence

IMG_1955

 

 

 

 

Author:

Dave Barry fan and Medical Director at Rocky Mountain Analytical

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