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Raccoons

Appearance

Characterized by their wooly appearance, raccoons weigh in at about 15 lbs when fully mature giving them a rounded look since they have short legs, they average 3-5 lbs when juvenile. Their tails grow to 40 cm and they get their bandit nickname because of the strip of black fur across their eye area which gives them a thief mask appearance though they are also known to possess burglar like tendencies. The palms of their front paws are furless and covered by whisker like skin, vibrissae, unlike the other parts of their body, which helps them with their sense of touch.

Habitat

Most of the United States plays home to raccoons and so does Central America and Europe. These diverse ecological zones are testament to how adaptive raccoons are with their preferred habitats being referred to as dens. Most dens are near man made features i.e. brick and mortar homes, sheds, and under stoops and porches. It is also not uncommon to find a den in trees that have holes in them or any other cave like holes. Research has found that the only constant factor in where these animals decide to call home is a source of water. Raccoons are not solitary animals and enjoy socializing amongst themselves and hence tend to have dens close to each other.

General Behavior

Though raccoons may look cute and cuddly, they are non-social creatures, bordering dangerous, and it is advised to keep them away from children. They adapt easily to new environments and raccoons are considered extremely smart animals; this plays to their advantage as they will study the environment, and human neighbors, and find ways to fulfill their dietary needs by stealing food from houses or go through trash cans in search of their next meal. Raccoons are nocturnal and retreat back to their dens during the day for sleep. Raccoons are good climbers and can easily make it up trees and electrical or telephone posts seeing as they have encroached on urban human settlements. They are extremely clean creatures and though it is not still very clear why they do so, raccoons have been known to dip their food in water as if to clean it before eating it. This is one of the reasons why they prefer to be close to a source of water and when this amenity is not available, they have been known to roll their food in snow or even sand in some instances to achieve the cleaning effect. Pools, ponds and fountains will suffice in urban areas as well and that’s why they are usually a bother in backyards in human settlements.

Reproduction

Raccoons have a gestation period of sixty three days, though some take as long as seventy three days. Mating happens during the end of winter after which a mother and her three to five kits will retreat away from her communal den to a special, pre prepped den, where she will raise her young ones. Kits are heavily dependent on their mother and will stay with her for up to a year though they are weaned at around eleven weeks.

Diet

Raccoons are omnivorous by nature, this means that their diet consists of both meat and naturally occurring vegetation. Their meat love can be quenched through road kill though they are good hunters with some of their favorite prey being fish which they can catch with their bare hands. They also feast on bird eggs, rodents, frogs and certain insects with their preference leaning towards invertebrates other than vertebrates. Nature provides wild grapes, beech nuts, acorns, plums, citrus fruits, watermelons, apples, walnuts, figs, persimmons and cherries for their vegetation needs.

Other raccoon information

Though raccoons’ front paws have five toes, they do not have opposable thumbs and the raccoon has seven species that vary in color and size. They have a top speed of twenty six kilometers per hour and the only known enemies in the wild are cougars and coyotes. Kits are born with their eyes tightly shut and only open after an average of fourteen days and are known to start walking after twenty one days. Raccoon belongs to the family group Procyonidae and has a lifespan of about ten to eleven years. They rarely go hungry thanks to their ability to eat anything whenever they are hungry. A bite from a raccoon is dangerous as they are known to be carriers of the virus rabies and this makes them a bad choice for a pet.