Some people dream of retiring to a beach somewhere in solitude. For James Blackwood, retirement involves racoons. Lots and lots of racoons.
The retired RCMP officer and self-described “raccoon whisperer” has grown a sizable YouTube following for videos featuring him feeding raccoons on his property in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.
And when I say racoons, I mean a lot of racoons. Like, a truly horrifying-to-most-people amount of racoons. Frankly, one might even say it’s too many raccoons.
Blackwood has been posting videos to YouTube since 2011, and sharing near-daily videos of himself feeding the raccoons since 2018. In the videos, he gives the creatures everything from peanut butter sandwiches to whipped cream.
He’s been surrounding himself with the furry friends since 1999. According to one of Blackwood’s videos, the racoons were a project of his late wife Jane, who rescued one that was hit by a car near their property. After nursing the raccoon back to health and releasing it, it kept coming back, eventually with a cub and more friends.
Blackwood says he promised Jane would keep taking care of the raccoons after she died.
“She died in 2003 and the last thing she asked me was to look after the cats that we still had and the raccoons,” he said in a 2016 video.
More than 20 years later, they keep coming back. A clip from one of Blackwood’s videos featuring him being swarmed by racoons as he fed them hot dogs recently went viral on Twitter, with many praising its “wholesome” nature.
If you ask me, being swarmed by raccoons is the last thing I want on their earth, but to each their own, I guess.
The hot dog video has been viewed on YouTube over 6.8 million times. It’s not just a one-hit wonder — Blackwood’s been doing this for years. His channel has over 233,000 subscribers, with several videos topping the million-view mark.
According to Blackwood, the raccoons usually live in the forest around his property, and emerge once a day for when he feeds them. Some nights — like the viral hot dog video — he can get over 30 furry visitors to the property. He’s also spotted a fox and even a black bear that interrupted one night’s feeding.
However, most experts warn against feeding wildlife, as it can build food dependence, or pass animal-born illness on to humans. Most raccoons in Nova Scotia carry an intestinal parasite called ‘raccoon roundworm’ and can pass it on to pets and people.
WATCH: Raccoon fishes around for snacks in the water. Story continues below.
The government of Nova Scotia warns against feeding wildlife like raccoons, especially if you live in a developed area. The province’s department of lands and forestry issued a guide for interacting with local wildlife.
“We are fortunate in Nova Scotia to share our environment with an abundance of wildlife. Attracting wildlife into populated and developed areas, however, has the potential to cause a host of problems for the animals and for ourselves, neighbours and pets,” the guide reads.
“The best ‘care’ we can provide wildlife to ensure their health and continued existence, is to maintain quality habitat and healthy ecosystems where possible... and keep wildlife ‘wild.’”