Inquisitive, intelligent, and seemingly always hungry the raccoon has developed a love hate relationship with the humans it shares its environment with. He has adapted quite well to city living and to making use of the food sources available there.
The raccoon's antics and the black mask which surrounds its eyes have rightfully earned this small mammal the title of a masked bandit. On his never ending hunt for food the raccoon does tend to make more than a few messes and enemies. This is an animal that is a professional when it comes to seeking out food sources hidden from its view.
Often referred to as a varmit, vermin, or rodent this tiny masked bandit actually falls into the classification of mammal in the order of Carnivora. The raccoon though is actually an omnivore existing on a highly diversified diet of plant, fruit, insect, fish, and meat sources rather than being the carnivore it is listed as.
A Very Distinctive Appearance and Markings
It is the raccoons distinctive black mask that is its signature trademark yet it is this animal's tiny hands which are the basis for it's name.
Alike a human the raccoon has five digits on each of it's paws and this makes them look very similar to human hands. The Algonquian indians named this tiny mammal Arakun meaning one who scratches with his hands.
Raccoons can be brown or gray in color. Their eyes are generally black. The baby kits are not born with their black mask but within ten days of birth they develop one.
A raccoons tail generally has between five and ten black or brown alternating rings circling it. Their features are very uniquely their own but it is the raccoons curious nature and the reputed mischief they get into which earns much of the talk surrounding their visits.
There are Few Foods That are Not on Their Shopping List
Raccoons are always willing to help themselves to a free meal if one presents itself even if that meal belongs to someone else. I guess they figure that if you are not going to be polite enough to invite them to dinner then they are going to have to give you a lesson in manners and just show up around meal time to help themselves.
Raccoons are omnivores and will eat just about anything they can get their tiny little hands on. Vegetation, crayfish, grasshoppers, worms, baby birds, fish, squirrel, corn, nuts, fruit, berries, dog or cat chow, or human food are all acceptable food sources to a raccoon. A raccoon's diet is not very discriminating. Used food is not off their edibles list so if you toss leftovers into the garbage they will be only too happy to dig it right back out.
If a river, lake, or stream is accessible then this is one of the raccoons preferred food sources. Of course if a natural water source is not available they will dine on just about any meal that they stumble onto. Starvation is a very real concern for raccoons and is a leading cause of death for this animal.
They have learned the tricks of the trade when it comes to breaking into homes, yards, storage sheds, garbage cans, and any other item that may contain a potential meal. Their human like hands come in very handy when it comes to finding food.
Raccoon Babies are Officially Referred to as Kits
A momma raccoon will give birth to between two and seven baby raccoons with the average litter usually consisting of 3 to 4 babies. The young raccoons are referred to as kits or cubs and are generally born in the spring months.
Perhaps because of an increased mortality risk, raccoons that live in more northern areas will generally have larger litter sizes than those raccoons who live in the southern areas.
Vulnerable in their early days of life cubs will usually stay hidden in the den till they are a month or two old. After this time they will begin to venture out on excursions with their mother. The kits will generally stay within their family unit until the following spring when the next litter is born.
Raccoon Mortality is Influenced by Predators Accidents Hunting
A raccoons legs are very short making it difficult for them to run at great speeds. Although most of the time they look like they are doing a slow waddle they can run about ten to fifteen miles per hour (16 to 24 kilometers per hour) but only for short distances and when the situation necessitates it.
In the wild a raccoons life expectancy is generally between two and five years. In captivity a raccoons life expectancy is around 14 to 20 years. Up to fifty percent of a raccoon's litter may perish in the first year of life yet raccoon numbers remain high this largely due the large birth number of raccoon cubs. That is quite a significant death rate.
Man, starvation, disease, accidents, and predators are the main reasons for the high raccoon mortality rates. Natural predators include the eagle, owl, hawk, coyote, wild cat, wolf, caiman and other predatory species.
Masked Bandit Out for a Little Late Night Snack at the Neighbors
Show Kindness to the Creatures Who Scamper by
Providing children with information on the distinct lifestyles of wildlife is very important for creating awareness and respect for our animal neighbors. As our worlds overlap and intertwine it becomes increasingly important to provide safe space for them.
Whether you enjoy or are annoyed by raccoons they are one of nature's many unique creatures. An appreciation for their distinctive personality can make living near them easier and safer for both of our species.
Wildlife theme books and toys are a great way to open a conversation with kids. Providing toys that depict our diverse animal world can help open the door to teaching respect and tolerance.
Wild animals belong in the wild but a plush raccoon toy is a wonderful gift for children. They are soft, cuddly, and just the right size for snuggling. Looking as curious as a real life raccoon but not quite as shy they are perfect for capturing the hearts of those who invite these pets home with them.
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