Raccoons (Procyon lotor)

They look like masked bandits. And in some ways they are, the bandit part, that is, as they tend to appear in the dark and are very quiet in their movements.

Originally from North America, raccoons can be found throughout the United States (besides the Rocky Mountains and southwestern states) as well as parts of Canada and Mexico.  They also inhabit the northern regions of South America as well as other parts of the world such as Russia, Germany and Japan.   

Raccoons prosper in urban areas as there are hunting restrictions, lack of predators and an abundance of food. Raccoons have done so well in cities, they are now more common in cities than in the countryside.

While they are primarily nocturnal and find their food mostly during the night, we have seen them frequently foraging for berries in broad daylight in the neighborhood. The toes on a raccoon’s paws are very skillful as they let the raccoon grasp and control the food that it finds as well as other objects including door knobs, jars and latches. Yes, good to keep that door locked.

The diet of a raccoon primary is determined by its habitat. Some examples include fruits, plants, nuts, insects, rodents, frogs, eggs, crayfish, insects, rodents, bird eggs and sometimes garbage (in urban areas).  Apparently, they think humans make good neighbors.

Interestingly, a raccoon will clean its food in water before eating it. When there is no water nearby, they will rub the food to remove any contamination.

A typical raccoon is about 60-95 cm (24 to 38 inches) and weighs 6 to 10 kg (14 to 23 lbs), depending on the availability of food.  The male raccoon is normally bigger than the female.

A raccoon’s fur is almost 90% thick underfur. This protects them from the cold. Raccoons do not hibernate in the winter, although it can sleep in its home (could be a hole in a tree, a log or even a house’s attic) for weeks. When the raccoons sleep, it lives off of its stored fat. They lose around 50% of its body fat in the winter.

We have come across some really huge raccoon that are definitely more than 15kg). Not sure what their diet has been! Despite their size, they were pretty agile and fast.  Raccoon are known to be able to run up to 24km (15 miles) per hour.

One can often mistake a raccoon for a badger from afar. However, the black masks on the raccoon’s face is unmistakable. The masks help them see clearly by taking in the incoming light, minimizing the glare that would come into their eyes and block their vision (just like the black stickers that athletes wear under their eyes).

Raccoons are independent after they are 12-14 months old. Adult raccoons live in loosely connected groups composed of 4-5 raccoons to better protect them from predators, which include the coyotes, cougars and bobcats. A raccoon can live up to 2 to 3 years in the wild.

While raccoons may look cute from afar, it is best to keep a respectful distance from them. These creatures are likely to have rabies and possibly other diseases.

Citations

Raccoon Nation | Raccoon Facts | Nature | PBS. 2012. Nature.

 Available at https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/raccoon-nation-rac coon-fact-sheet/7553/ [Accessed 12 August 2020].

https://www.havahart.com/raccoon-facts#general-facts

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