Q. Dear Twig: What's a raccoon latrine?
A. It's a place where a raccoon goes to the bathroom over and over and over again. Or a place where a lot of raccoons do it. It could be on a tree stump. Or up in the crotch of a tree. Or up on the roof of your house. Or even under your playset. It's something you'll want to stay away from. And not just because it's a public toilet for animals and none of them clean it.
See, a raccoon's little presents can give people a terrible illness, a parasite called raccoon roundworm. Millions of the creature's eggs can be inside those presents; the eggs are what spread it, or can. So you don't want to touch those presents by accident. Not that you'd want to anyway. The good news: Infections are rare.
"Simply being aware of the roundworm and avoiding raccoon latrines is probably the most important approach to avoiding infections." So says an Ohio State University Extension fact sheet.
In fact I'm still stunned that raccoons use latrines.
It all seems so ... organized.
Hey, get in line,
P.S. Check out that fact sheet at http://ohioline.osu.edu/w-fact/pdf/0020.pdf.
The fact sheet is called "Raccoon Roundworm: Facts and Prevention." Wildlife specialist Stan Gehrt of Ohio State and Kristen Page of Wheaton College (Illinois) wrote it. The first photo in it? A raccoon caught in the middle of using a latrine. "Taken!" it seems to be saying. Or, maybe not.
Adult roundworms live in a raccoon's small intestines. They usually don't make the raccoon sick. But the larvae can sicken and even kill not just people (again, fortunately, infections are rare) but dogs, mice, birds, rabbits, rodents and others.
Also try "Raccoon Roundworm" at http://www.michigan.govdnr/0,1607,7-153-10370_12150_12220-27261--,00.html. The first photo in it is gross. (Sooo ... Yes! Check it out!)
"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick" is a weekly feature for children (ages 9+; 4th grade reading level) about science, nature, farming and the environment. Online at http://extension.osu.edu/~news/archive.php?series=science.
Brought to you by your scientific friends at The Ohio State University — specifically, at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) (http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu) and with Ohio State University Extension (http://extension.osu.edu). OARDC and OSU Extension are the research and outreach arms, respectively, of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
Written by Kurt Knebusch of OARDC and OSU Extension. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt at CommTech, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691; firstname.lastname@example.org; (330) 263-3776.