“That thieving critter raided the bird feeder again last night,” I complained to Mike who had heard me call the raccoon, thieving critter, so often that for a moment he thought it a subspecies of the northern raccoon rather than the pesty, aggravating backyard pest.
I baffled the feeders, sprayed the perimeter with coyote urine, and for a while brought in the bird feeders nightly. Thieving critter circumvented the baffles, rain washed away the spray, and bringing in the feeders nightly got old quick.
The more I thought of that backyard pest snarfing the nuthatches’ peanut butter suet, raiding the cardinals’ sunflower seeds, and ransacking the mourning doves’ safflower, the more I thought that thieving critter should be its official name.
Instead of Googling raccoon proof feeders, (Sometimes I’m not focused.), I Googled who named animals. I wanted to submit my petition for changing raccoon’s scientific name, Procyn lotor, to something less scientific like Critter thievingus.
With further investigation I learned Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist and physician, developed binomial nomenclature, the system of naming animals, in 1735. Obviously, he wasn’t around to hear my renaming arguments.
I also learned of the ICZN (International Code of Zoological Nomenclature). Think of this as one of those books about naming your baby, but with unfun rules. Principal of Priority, one of the bazillion animal naming rules, enforced “calling dibs.” After a scientist published an article about naming a newly discovered animal, no one else could use that name. If it had been used before, Dr. So-and-so was out of luck and needed to think of a unique name.
Instead of Googling plantings that dissuade raccoons, (I still wasn’t focused.), I Googled recently discovered animals and found that zoologists engaged divergent thinking when naming animals.
Bryan Lessard, a scientist, named a rare horse fly found in Australia after Beyonce. The horse fly’s hairy golden abdomen reminded him of Beyonce’s golden hair. I assumed that Beyonce waxed her abdomen if required and Lessard referred to the locks on the singer’s head.
A slime eating beetle bears the name Agathidium vaderi, after Star Wars’ Darth Vader. Quentin Wheeler, a science fiction aficionado and entomologist, named the North American beetle after the fictional villain. Hopefully the resemblance of Vader’s broad shiny head and squinty eyes and not scheming a for planet destruction was the inspiration.
A blind Yugoslavian cave beetle shares a name with a real-life villain, Adolf Hitler. German scientist, Oscar Scheibel, named the beetle Anophthalmus hitleri. The name translates to “eyeless one of Hitler.” The beetle wasn’t the only eyeless one. Scheibel showed no foresight of the oncoming evil.
Renaming of the innocent beetle had been suggested. The ICZN refused. The Principal of Priority (calling dibs) rule held in spite of the offensive name. They suggested informally changing the common name, Hitler beetle, to a less distasteful common name which would be almost anything else.
If the Hitler beetle advocates lost the renaming battle, I would have no luck renaming my backyard pest to Critter thievingus. However, I could wage my personal campaign by referring to raccoons as thieving critters in my publications. Consider this is the start of “informally changing the common name” as the ICZN suggested.
Now that I’m refocused, onto Googling thieving critter proof feeders and plantings that dissuade critters that thieved.
(For a story about problem solving kids who humanely remove raccoons from their home, check out “Neighbors in the Attic” in Operation Hopper and Other Tales, my collection of short stories for children. It’s available on Amazon.)