TRR photos by Sandy Long

In addition to the skull, a portion of the raccoon’s spine and tail, as well as part of its hip structure were also nearby. My hand lends perspective to the relative size of the bones. 

Mystery mammal

Wonders abound in the natural world and pique our interest in knowing more about the flora or fauna we encounter. I recently discovered an animal skull and various bones in the shallows of the Lackawaxen River and became intrigued to know which mammal had lost its life and returned to the flow of the water.

Having only my cell phone camera at hand that day, I snapped a series of photos using an add-on lens that creates a portal-like image as seen in the photos in this column. Using these images, the animal was later identified to be a raccoon by mammal specialist Dr. Howard Whidden of East Stroudsburg University.

Raccoons are omnivores and typically consume fruits, nuts, berries, small rodents, crayfish, frogs, turtle and bird eggs, and sometimes garbage generated by humans. This species often washes its food in water before consuming it, thereby earning it the scientific name, “lotor.”

The Pennsylvania Game Commission and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation offer helpful online information about the mammals typically found in the Upper Delaware River region. Visit  or to learn more about raccoons. Should you discover an intact animal skull while adventuring in the region, visit for guidance in identifying your find.


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