Raccoons are a very intelligent animal, usually having a grey-brown or orange-brown above and black or grayish color on their bottom side.
These uniquely designed animals are often called natures only “clever bandits” because of the characteristic black mask covering their face.
The hands of raccoons are dexterous, and that makes their hands one of the unique features of their physic as they can use their hands to open doors and trashcan lids, a specific ability that has commonly landed them the name of “neighborhood pest.”
Raccoons have bushy tails that range in length from 8 to 16 inches and features 4 to 6 alternating grayish-brown or black rings. Mature adults raccoons weigh 10 to 45 pounds and are between 25 and 40 inches in length.
Table of Contents
- Family: Procyonidae
- Class: Mammalia
- Rank: Species
- Lifespan: 2 – 3 years (In the wild)
- Trophic level: Omnivorous Encyclopedia of Life
- Scientific name: Procyon lotor
Range and Distribution
The raccoon is not found everywhere on the planet. Populations of these animals are found throughout the southern part of Canada and most parts of the United States, except for areas in the Rocky Mountains, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona.
Raccoons were also introduced to some parts of Asia and Europe. Raccoons are also prevalent throughout New Hampshire, residing in both urban and rural settings.
Habits and Habitats
Something unique about raccoons is their possession of incredibly nimble fingers and thumbs that are almost as skilled as those of primates. Because of this, it is not shocking that raccoons can open refrigerators, turn doorknobs, and lift trashcan lids.
The name raccoon stemmed from the Algonquin word aroughcoune, which means “he scratches with his hands.” By the 1700s, it was noticed that the “a” of aroughcoune was eliminated to create the present-day word “raccoon.”
Raccoon populations live in a variety of places; hence they can be found in habitats ranging from wetlands to woods and rural to urban environments. Raccoons are commonly found along wooded streams.
Raccoons are naturally omnivorous animals, eating various nuts, grapes, berries, grasshoppers, deer mice, grubs, crickets, voles, squirrels, and other smaller mammals.
Raccoons take hygiene seriously when it comes to food as they will often “wash” their food if they are close to water; The species name lotor means “washer.”
However, whenever you see a raccoon washing it’s food, it really isn’t washing the food in the real sense of it, but it is instead kneading and tearing it to eliminate offensive matter.
Raccoons are a very skilled animal as they are very good climbers and swimmers and use both skills to obtain whatever food they can get. Raccoons can be found swimming in small streams as they search for aquatic food sources, such as frogs, crayfish, worms, clams, fish, and turtles.
They also feed on acorns and whatever nuts they can find around their habitat. Raccoons can turn their hind feet to an incredible 180 degrees, and this enables them to climb up and down trees of any size both backward or forward.
Raccoons are not amongst the many natural hibernators, however, they may appear so when in extremely cold weather. They can sleep for as long as one month; however, their body temperatures or heart rates do not lower as dramatically as other mammals hibernators.
Individuals are active during warm winter weather and forage occasionally. However, raccoons can stay without food during the winter, majorly because they store almost one-third of their body weight as fat, and that enables them to survive for long periods without food.
For the most of the year, raccoons are sedentary. However, when it is mating seasons, male raccoons will travel several miles in search of a mating partner.
In New Hampshire, the raccoon mating season takes place from January to March, and, after a gestation period of about two months (60 days), a litter of 1 to 8 baby raccoons is born in April or May.
The weight of a newborn raccoon is around 2 ounces (60 grams), and they do not open their eyes until after three weeks. After 7 to 8 weeks, young raccoons are smart enough to climb throughout the den and, by the time August comes to an end, the litter is weaned, and the baby raccoons are independent.
Common raccoons use a wide range of vocalizations, including whimpers, purrs, snarls, hisses, growls, screams, and whinnies. When two raccoons come in contact with each other on overlapping territories, they react with a growl, lower their heads and ears and reveal their teeth.
The meet gets more intense as the fur on the back of their neck stands straight in alarm. However, despite this tension between the two strangers, most of the encounters end without a physical fight.
Raccoons have specific hunting and trapping seasons for their fur in New Hampshire. The seasons run for six months from September to March, and hunting can be carried out at night, unlike a bunch of other little furbearers and bigger mammals.
Common raccoon predators
In the wild, the most common raccoon predators include fishers, foxes, and bobcats. However, asides diseases which can also kill raccoons in the wild, the majority of raccoon deaths, especially in urban settlements, occur from automobile collisions or accidents.
Pregnant raccoons sometimes go into buildings to give birth to their babies in April. They often lookout for a house with a fireplace and chimney where they can comfortably give birth.
Homeowners are advised to have a secure lid or covering on each chimney to keep would-be raccoon moms out of their houses. Raccoons are indeed a primary carrier of rabies in the United States; about 50% of all reported cases of rabies involve infected raccoons.
Note that rabies is considered a severe viral disease that leads to death if it is left untreated. Animals Infected with rabies can either be fearless and lethargic or agitated and aggressive.
A sign of a possible rabbis infection maybe finding a nocturnal animal, such as the raccoon, wandering with confidence in the daytime.
If you suspect that a possibly rabid animal has bitten you, make sure to seek medical assistance immediately, as there is no known cure once symptoms arise.
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