The common raccoon, also known as Procyon Lotor, is perceived by the majority as cute, fuzzy creatures. At day, you may find them scurrying around the trees and at night, scrounging around open trash cans. But, raccoons are more than what they seem. And this excellent raccoon information is about to discuss why.
Raccoons are medium-sized animals typically measuring 40 – 70 cm. Counting its long, bushy tail, an average raccoon can extend to 20 – 40 cm in length. They can live for 20 years in captivity and only 1.8 – 3.1 years in the wild.
These animals are widely known for their bandit-like appearance. Raccoons are grey in color, but their faces have white fur with a black mask around their eyes. Their tail is described as long and busy with black rings over the gray or brown fur.
Distribution around the world
Raccoons can be found in different parts of the world such as North America, Europe, and – though in smaller populations – Japan. In North America, raccoons are endemic from Canada to Panama. Its presence in Europe and Japan has been brought by their introduction around the 20th century.
The first introduction of raccoons happened in Germany, where most sightings of raccoons in Europe are commonly reported. In 1934, two pairs of pet raccoons were released into the wild by the request of its owner. Soon, more introductions followed until the population increased. It is estimated that the raccoon population reached one million in 2012.
On the other hand, Japan had its first share of raccoons back in the 1970’s. Due to the popularity of the hit anime show “Rascal the Racoon,” 1,500 raccoons were imported as pets in 1977. As a result, the raccoon population grew until they made all 47 prefectures as their habitat.
Raccoons initially inhabited forests and densely wooded areas. However, due to urbanization and agriculture, these forests and wooded areas began to fade. Now, raccoons inhabit mountainous and wetter regions. But, some raccoons choose to live in human-occupied areas.
Their amazing adaptability is shown in their ability to make areas with dense human populations their home. Large raccoon populations occupy urban cities of Washington D.C.., Toronto, Chicago, and even Albuquerque. In these regions, raccoons choose to inhabit human homes, garages, old garden trees, and attics.
Raccoons are omnivores, so they eat both vegetation and meat. Their vegetation diet includes cherries, apples, acorns, wild grapes, figs, and others. On the other hand, their meat diet consists of frogs, fish, insects, and bird eggs. In urban areas, raccoons forage around trash cans and roadkill for food.
Scientists have noted a particular interesting behavior in these animals. Raccoons are seen to observe their food before eating it. Currently, reasons behind this action are unknown.
Raccoons are nocturnal creatures. This means that they hunt at night and sleep during the day. They were formerly thought to be solitary creatures, but current studies prove that wrong! In females, related raccoons share common feeding and resting areas. Male raccoons also do the same among their kin, but for fending off unrelated male raccoons during mating season.
Even though they are commonly associated with dumps and trash cans, raccoons are extremely clean creatures! Raccoons in the wild have been observed to wash their food before consuming. This behavior earned them the name “Waschbär” in Germany, which means wash bear. Like a cat, raccoons are also seen to dig latrines before secreting their wastes.
The mating season of raccoons falls around early spring in January to March. If the mating is successful, female raccoons will undergo a gestation period of two months before giving birth to five kits.
Since male raccoons are aggressive towards unrelated kits, female raccoons tend to isolate themselves to take care of their kits. Raccoon kits are blind and deaf at first, but they will regain sight and hearing after a month. They are also born with lightly layered fur, but they will develop their distinct patterned fur later on.
To add to this necessary raccoon information, here are some interesting trivia about the raccoon.
- Throughout history, raccoons have been hunted for their fur. Their fur is used in creating the cap of the British Royal Fusiliers.
- Raccoons are now being kept as pets despite not being a domesticated animal. In some U.S. States like Wisconsin, a person will need an exotic pet permit to keep a raccoon as a pet.
- Raccoons can carry a strain of the rabies virus called “raccoon rabies.” To prevent an increase in infected individuals, many U.S. States and Canadian provinces have introduced oral anti-rabies vaccination programs.
Hope you are able to clear out all of the misconceptions about the raccoons after reading this article. Next time you see one, make sure to observe their appearances and behaviors, and even appreciate their existence.