In the back recesses of the Northern Frontier at the San Diego Zoo, near the Arctic foxes and below the reindeer, lives an animal that many Zoo guests might take for granted, because they can occasionally see one in their backyard. While guests are oohing and ahhing over the nearby polar bears, a female raccoon named Granite is foraging, lounging, or playing in her pool. Granite has lived in the exhibit across from the Polar Bear Plunge helicopter for nearly four years. She moved to her current location from the Zoo’s Discovery Outpost in June 2009.
Granite is six years old and has quite the personality when she is willing to show it! She can be shy at times, and if you don’t see her out, then she is likely sleeping in her house or her hammock. This is normal behavior for a raccoon, because they are mostly nocturnal by nature so are more active at night. They will come out during the day, however, usually to look for food. A few of Granite’s preferred foods are yams, bananas, and jicama.
Some of Granite’s favorite activities include foraging for treats, playing “watch the reindeer,” and hunting crayfish. When Boris, the male reindeer, was born, Granite was especially curious during his bottle-feeding sessions. We keepers provide as much enrichment possible for Granite when we aren’t managing the polar bears or the Arctic foxes.
Raccoons are naturally curious and extremely intelligent. Because we want to engage Granite both intellectually and physically, she rarely receives a “free” meal. Granite is quite adept at opening jars, tearing through boxes, climbing to the highest points of her exhibit, and figuring out how to get her food out of puzzle feeders. We provide all of these things to stimulate her, both mentally and physically and are constantly looking for new ways to enrich her life and keep her busy.
The next time you are visiting our polar bears, stop by the exhibit across from the Arctic foxes and see what our beautiful raccoon Granite is up to!
Matthew Price is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.