The Phoenix Zoo looks majorly cool, and I look forward to many happy hours photographing there. If the website is to be believed, they have giant anteaters, aardwolves, lemurs, clouded leopards, capybaras, and many other delights.

They also have a raccoon.

Evidentally Phoenix doesn’t play home to many raccoons. Now, I can understand this–it’s the middle of the desert, after all. On t’other hand, since I have watched one walk up to a “raccoon-proof” cooler, practically crack its little knuckles, and pop the lock in under thirty seconds with the ease of a professional safecracker, I’m surprised they haven’t hitched rides in on trucks. Or just hotwired the trucks and driven themselves.

Still, a raccoon? In a zoo? Having been in campsites being raided by the beasts, there is some undefinable mental failure-to-connect there…if I’ve watched James fend the things off with a stick, I don’t expect them to have their own exhibit. (Please note, O Animal Lovers, before anyone tirades–he didn’t hit the raccoon with a stick. He jumped out of the tent to try and chase them off, most of them bolted, but the smallest one sat on top of a cooler and growled at him. He circled the cooler. It turned with him, looking like a small, fuzzy facehugger about to make the leap. He thumped the cooler a few times with the stick. It was not impressed. Finally he gave up and came back to bed, saying that it was too damn cute and he just couldn’t poke it.)

Local fauna is one thing–I know that there are wolverines in Minnesota, but I don’t expect to ever see one, so I’m glad they’re in a zoo. But raccoons? They come up out of the storm drains and hiss at you if you walk around at night. They hang out at dumpsters. I feel vaguely like I did when I learned that someone was selling plain ‘ol North Americal gray squirrels in Australia for pets, at $1500 a pair.

Then again, I worked with this guy from Nigeria once who thought that the fact we had lions in zoos was crazy. He considered them generally harmless but an occasional nuisance. Camping in lion-infested territory? No big deal. But he was terrified of bears and thought that camping at Yellowstone was taking one’s life in one’s hands. I guess one man’s exotica is another man’s vermin, or whatever.

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