You have probably never seen a raccoon jump from tree to tree like a squirrel or hop over fences like a cat. Their short legs and pudgy bodies make it hard for them to jump at all. However, videos of raccoons falling from buildings, trees, and ceilings are common across the internet. As perilous as the situations appear, the raccoons always seem to walk away as if nothing happened. Skedaddle explains how raccoons land on their feet and what to do if you need raccoon removal in Hamilton.
Landing Feet-First Is a Reflex
Videos of falling raccoons usually end with the animals landing on their feet or bellies and immediately scampering away. The aerial righting reflex is the scientific term for an animal’s ability to turn its feet down in midair, even if it initially falls backward from a vertical surface. Besides raccoons, researchers also have documented this amazing behaviour in these other animals:
- Guinea pigs
If you have ever experienced free-fall, you know that there is little time to make decisions about your landing before you hit bottom. Additionally, many of the animals in the above list are not exceptionally intelligent. Therefore, animal behaviourists consider the tendency to flip over in midair to be an innate reflex that raccoons do not have to think about before performing.
Raccoons Change Shape While Falling
In the same way that Olympic divers change the orientation of their arms and legs to achieve splashless landings, a raccoon’s instincts cause it to assume an advantageous position during freefall. Not only does it flip its entire body around so that its belly hits first, but it also arches its back and stretches out its front and back legs. This configuration makes its entire body resemble a parachute and is reminiscent of a flying squirrel gliding from tree to tree.
Raccoons must coordinate the movements of many body parts to achieve the desired landing position. Here are some of the anatomical structures involved:
- Spine – Raccoons bend and flex the front and back of their spines, with rotation in the neck area being especially important.
- Limbs – A raccoon can use its shoulders, hips, and legs to help flip itself around before extending them out for the landing.
- Tail – Because raccoons have bones and muscles hidden within their fluffy tails, they can use the structure to create torque in the same way falling lizards do.
- Muscles – Despite the stressful situation, raccoons relax all their muscles when they fall. This behaviour allows their bodies to splay out and absorb the impact without breaking any bones.
The Laws of Physics Are in a Raccoon’s Favour
The laws of physics tell us that a falling object does not accelerate indefinitely, no matter how high it begins its downward journey. It instead reaches a maximum speed that it maintains until hitting the ground. Physicists refer to this natural speed limit as an object’s terminal velocity. Because of a raccoon’s small size, light bones, and thick fur, its terminal velocity is probably close to that of a cat’s, which has been recorded at 100 km/hr. Humans, in contrast, have a terminal velocity of a whopping 210 km/hr.
Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control of Hamilton
Raccoons falling through home and office ceilings is a fairly common occurrence. If you suspect raccoons might be in your attic, contact us online or call us right away. We can disinfect raccoon latrines before they weaken drywall and ceiling tiles, potentially leading to animals crashing down unexpectedly. We can also discuss with you ways to seal up holes in your home and prevent them from entering in the first place.