Facts About Raccoons

Raccoon information an the masked bandit, including diet, coloring, habitat, size, diseases carried by them, and how many kits in an average litter.

The raccoon (Procyon lotor) is a fascinating mammal that is loved by many and considered by many more as nothing more than a pest. An image often associated with the wild western frontier is the coonskin cap; for instance, Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone are often depicted wearing them. To this day, trappers and hunters value the raccoons hide, and the meat of this animal is eaten. Inhabiting a wide range, from southern Canada and throughout the United States, the raccoon is as much a part of the history of these two areas as the settlers of these lands themselves.

At the same time, cities and communities all over have had problems with this creature of the night damaging property, leaving behind tipped over garbage cans, torn and shredded lawns as they dig for grubs, even dealing with them after they have taken up residence in attics, garages, and barns. As people have moved into their natural habitat, they have followed suit, and moved right back in among us. One main problem of this is that raccoons are often carriers of parasites, including rabies, which is a serious viral disease.

Often described as a "˜masked bandit' because of their unique facial coloring, a "˜mask' around the eye area, the raccoon is also rightly called a bandit because of his thievery. A nocturnal animal, he can often be found raiding refuse areas at night. The paws of a raccoon can maneuver and open almost anything offered. Rocks seemingly too large for an animal of his size are moved, garage doors and windows are his for the opening, and garbage can lids are not even a deterrent. The raccoon is also a climber, runner, swimmer, and acrobat.

They can be found living in caves, rocks, hollowed out trees, your attic. A female will give birth in the spring to a litter ranging from two to six kits at a time. The average size of an adult raccoon is approximately twenty to forty-five lbs. Ranging in length from sixteen to twenty-five inches, with an additional twelve to fourteen inches for their tail, the average raccoon is often over 40". Females are typically smaller than males. Keeping this in mind, there are exceptions to the rule, and raccoon weighing well over fifty pounds have been recorded.

Coloring of a raccoon can vary greatly, from a light blonde color, to a deep black, and shades from red and brown in between. The tail has rings that contrast the shade of the rest of him, one blonde raccoon I had the opportunity to see had dark tan rings on his tail, while a nearly black raccoon had very light brown rings. The mask around the eyes is always a darker color than the rest of his fur.

The diet of a raccoon is often determined by what is available. Fish, crayfish, mice, frogs, birds, eggs, and honey are all part of a raccoon's "˜natural' diet. Because raccoons live where people do, and vice versa, they will eat whatever we leave behind too. Garbage cans are a big attractant for these animals, and nearly anything that was once on our plates, will be eaten by a scavenging raccoon, including breads, meats, vegetables, sweets, even items such as soda.

While the raccoon is often described and portrayed as a sweet, cute, and even cuddly animal, never approach a wild raccoon. A fierce animal when threatened, they can defend themselves against much larger animals. Sharp teeth, sharp claws, agility, and strength, all make the raccoon the survivor that he is.

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