Go down (or around) the stairs from the parking lot and continue straight ahead and cross the canal bridge. Follow the path to the left immediately after the bridge and stop 20 m down the trail at the birch trees.
With their masked faces and sneaky ways, raccoons are nature’s robbers. These furry scavengers live by outsmarting other creatures. Life is full of surprises for a gang of bandits on the run. Can you become raccoons and survive the Raccoon Robber Challenge? Use the game cards to discover what awaits you around the next corner. Stay on your toes.
When you pick a card, do the prescribed action as you move down the trail.
Here is what the cards mean…
- Do the Raccoon Ramble: take a few steps and hide behind a tree. Repeat.
- Shake your bottom as you walk like an attractive raccoon.
- Be a playful raccoon: take ten giant steps and do three spins. Repeat.
- Have fun by skipping down the trail.
- Be quiet and tiptoe down the trail.
- Be a speedy raccoon and run to the next stop.
Raccoons have masks like thieves. You become a raccoon when you put on your mask. Hide behind a tree and communicate with the other raccoons in your gang by saying “trill, trill, trill” over and over again in a high pitched voice.
Do You Know?
From time immemorial, the Mi’kmaq paddled the Dartmouth Lakes by canoe, portaged across here and ultimately used the Shubenacadie (Sipekne’katik ) River to reach the Bay of Fundy. This was a major canoe route across Sipekne’katik (much of Central Nova Scotia), which is one of the seven major districts of Mi’kma’ki (the lands of the Mi’kmaq). Artifacts in this area date back 4,000 years. Waterways were the major transportation highways for the Mi’kmaq. The British began constructing the Shubenacadie Canal system to link the lakes and eliminate the portages in 1826. It took a long time to complete the canal, but it was finished in 1861. The installation of locks that could shift vessels across changing water levels opened access for ships that otherwise had to travel all around the southern coast of Nova Scotia to reach the Bay of Fundy. The canal system was used from 1861 to 1870 and then abandoned due to the shift to railroads.
From your current spot near the birch trees, the activities below guide your movement to the next trail intersection (about 280 m).
Raccoons on the run eat what they can steal. Lucky you eat just about anything (this means you’re an omnivore). Find at least seven types of food along the trail before you reach the bench (about 100 m) on the right. Don’t collect these items, simply spot them:
- snakes (find a snake hiding spot)
- bird’s eggs (spot a nest)
- mice (find a hole where a mouse might hide)
- fish (look in the water)
- frogs (look in the water)
You’d be stuffed if you really ate all that at once. You better move on before someone catches you. Go 50 metres, shuffle the cards and pick one without looking. Do this movement down the trail until you come to an interpretive sign.
Stop here and pick another card to tell you how to move further along the trail to the next intersection.
Do You Know?
Raccoons are very intelligent and curious. Although they look cute and cuddly, some carry diseases and are very vicious when they feel threatened or cornered. This is true for many wild animals. It is best to watch and appreciate wild animals from a distance. The squirrels, chipmunks and ducks in this park are very tame because people feed them. This is not in their best interests as a diet of human food is not healthy for them.
At the trail intersection, turn right. Be wary at this intersection. Don’t become road kill! Check both ways for cars and scamper to the right a short distance on the road. Go about 60 m on the road to the parking lot and take the first trail on your left. Stop just past the two big rocks at the trail entrance.
You need a place to hide. Raccoons take shelter in natural holes or shelters they steal from other creatures. Search for possible hideouts in the area. Pick the one you think a raccoon would like best and explain why to the others. Good places might include:
- holes in the ground
- a hollow tree or stump
- hiding places among the rocks or logs
Do a group tour of the best hideouts and give applause for the:
- roomiest hideout
- coziest hideout
- most creative hideout
Ooops, you’re hungry again. Mix up the cards and pick one to find out how to move down the trail while you search for more to eat.
Netukulimk … Raccoons
The English word raccoon comes from an Algonquian language as “aroughcun” or “aroughcoune”, meaning “one that rubs, scrubs, and scratches with its hands. Mi’kmaq traditionally used deadfall traps to capture and kill Amaljukwej(raccoon) as a valuable source of food in the winter when they were fat and healthy. The pelts were used as clothing or traded with other peoples. Today, the raccoon population is high because they have adapted to human settlement, their predators have been eliminated and they are no longer hunted.
Go 30 m further down this trail and turn left onto a side trail and cross a tiny bridge. Go about 25 m off the trail to the middle tree among three giant hemlock trees.
These trees are excellent raccoon hideouts. They are tall and have lots of big branches for a raccoon to nestle in and rest. Which tree is the widest?
- One person places their palms side by side on the trunk about a meter off the ground. Mark this starting spot on the ground.
- One by one everyone else places their two hands so they just touch those of the previous person. A line of hands is established around the trunk.
- When all the group’s hands are lined up, the first person moves to the front and adds their hands on there.
- People keep moving from the back to the front as someone counts how many hands it takes to get around the whole tree.
Which tree would be the best hideout?
Raccoons play a lot for fun and to practice their survival skills. Test your skills at catching a juicy mouse. You’ll have to play in the dark since raccoons hunt at night:
- One person is the raccoon and wears the vision blocker.
- The raccoon must be touching the middle tree at all times.
- The others are mice and start at one of the outer trees to either side.
- The mice must get to the other outside tree, touching the middle tree on the way.
- The raccoon listens closely, and yells “mouse” and points if a mouse is heard.
- The mouse is caught if the raccoon points in the proper direction.
- Take turns being the raccoon.
Time to move along and search for some interesting sniffs. Pick a new movement card before you start on your way.
Do You Know?
Anything put down the drain ends up in freshwater sources like the Shubenacadie Canal sooner or later. There are many chemical agents on the market such as window cleaners, sink de-cloggers and oven cleaners that can pollute water and hurt living things. Their chemical components remain in the environment for a long time; that is, they are non-biodegradable. An alternative is to use biodegradable cleaning agents. Biodegradable means that something can be eaten by microorganisms and broken down into components that are not harmful to ecosystems.
Return to the small parking lot. Turn right, walk along the road, and then take the first trail on the left. Go 70 m down this trail doing the action from the card. Stop where the trail bends around a tree on the right.
Raccoons are very nosey. Most animals leave behind smells that tell other animals where they’ve been. Smells can also lead to food. Try sniffing out some neat smells:
- Get in a raccoon stance on your hands and knees.
- Crawl about and search for neat smells.
- Scratch and sniff trees, dead leaves, plants and other interesting things.
- Share interesting smells by calling other raccoons over with “trill, trill, trill.”
- Find at least five neat smells.
Watch out for enemies as you pick a new movement card to tell you how to move to the next stop.
Here are some biodegradable home cleaning agents that help prevent water pollution:
- Clean windows with 10 ml (2 tsp) of vinegar in 1 litre (4 cups) of water. Use crumpled newspaper as your cleaning cloth for a streak-and lint-free finish.
- Clean sink drains by pouring 125 ml (1/2 cup) of baking soda down the drain followed by 125 ml (1/2 cup) of vinegar. Plug the sink for 15 minutes and then pour boiling water down the drain.
- Clean your oven with a mixture of baking soda and water.
Go about 25 m until you see a bench just to the left of the trail. Stop here.
Raccoon enemies include coyotes, pine martens, red foxes and lynxes. People also find raccoons troublesome when they eat chickens and garbage or invade dwellings. Mischievous raccoons enjoy outwitting humans in the dark:
- With sticks, mark a rough circle about three metres across on the ground.
- Someone is the human and wears a vision blocker. Another person is the raccoon.
- Everyone else stands on the edge of the circle and prevents the human from going outside of it. The raccoon can see and must stay inside the circle.
- The human tries to tag the raccoon.
- The raccoon must give one “trill” whenever the human says “raccoon”.
- Take turns being the human and the raccoon.
The raccoons are getting tired. Pick a new movement card so you know how to head down the trail looking for a place to rest.
Raccoons have front paws with five toes that they use like hands. These are particularly suited to helping them get food. Raccoons use their hands to capture and open shellfish, to use sticks and rocks as tools, and to climb up high to get fruit or berries. They are excellent for opening containers like garbage cans to get at the yummy food waste inside. Raccoon paws are special features that show this earthwork in action:
Go about 130 m to where there is a bench and a small path on the left, and a creek on the right.
Across the creek is a perfect hideout except that it is right near the trail. Instead turn left on a little path just past the bench so you can get off the main trail and find a quieter place to rest. Along the beginning of this path explore the logs and other hiding spots so that each raccoon can pick the best place to crawl into for a short rest in comfort. Snuggle in your spot and draw a picture in your Adventure Journal of your favourite raccoon adventure or your favourite type of raccoon food.
Do you Know – Dens
Raccoons use dens for temporary shelter, raising young and sleeping in the winter. Dens include hollow trees, stumps, logs, brush piles, caves, burrows of other animals, and human shelters. Usually a family group, made up of the mother and a number of young, share the same den in the winter to conserve heat. They forage together at night and den up in the day. Raccoons usually sleep in a tree, on a log, or in a clump of vegetation otherwise. Male raccoons den alone.
You’re hungry again! Return to the main trail and look for a concrete pipe up ahead on the right. Raccoons like to sneak through underground tunnels. Crawl through the tunnel if it is dry.
Search for food after you crawl through the pipe as a gang:
- Gather everyone around a small rock.
- One person carefully lifts it up so everyone can see under it.
- Look for interesting worms, bugs and other creepy crawlies.
- Gently replace the rock after a good group look.
- Rotate the leader as you repeat these steps.
- Carefully replace each rock exactly in its original position.
Which creatures are most interesting? Which look good to eat from a raccoon’s point of view? (Don’t really eat anything.)
Pick a new movement card and head off in search of a hidden symbol.
Visit the Shubenacadie Interpretive Centre on Alderney Drive in Dartmouth to learn more about the history of the Shubenacadie Canal. For further background, adults can read Men, Money, and Muscle: Building the Shubenacadie Canal by Harry Chapman (Dartmouth, NS: Dartmouth Historical Society, 1994).
Continue about 150 m on this trail, staying to the right along the water’s edge. Pass a bench on your left and stop at a second bench on the left.
You’ve made it to the end of the Raccoon Robber Challenge! It is time to find a nice resting place to wash up along the shore to the left of the bench. Take a picture of what you think would be a raccoon’s favourite bathing spot and take a picture of the pond from there and upload it to the website if you choose.
Can you find the plaque? It is under something wood nearby. Make a rubbing of the mystery creature on the plaque in your Adventure Journal with the side of your pencil.
The plaque symbol is:
Congratulations, you have survived as a masked bandit! Outsmarting human beings and other wild creatures is no easy task! What are three things that helped you survive as a raccoon?
If you return along the trail you will hit the canal.