Raccoon Facts: Interesting Facts About Masked Bandits

Characteristics

racoon (Image from Wikimedia Commons)Raccoons (scientific name: Procyon lotor) are native mammals widely distributed in North America but are also found in the tropics. These nocturnal animals measure 3-feet long including their 12-inch, bushy, ringed tail which store fat just before winter. They are about the size of a medium-sized dog with an average weight of 15 to 40 pounds. Age, genetics, food availability, and habitat location determine their weight. Urban raccoons are generally larger and heavier than wild raccoons because in urban areas there are hunting and trapping restrictions, few predators, and more food available.

Raccoons have a hunched appearance when they walk or run because their hind legs are longer than the front legs. Each of their front feet has five dexterous toes with amazing ability to grasp and manipulate foods and objects. Their face tapers to a pointed muzzle. Because of their masks, people usually call them as “masked bandits”. The mask enhances their vision during the night and act as camouflage for potential predators. They cool their bodies by panting and sweating.

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Raccoons: Pest?

Many people consider raccoons as pests because they can be destructive and annoying. They destroy human properties such as the garden, lawn, farms, and house parts. They disarrange the garbage and create annoying sounds during sleeping hours. Although many people like to exterminate them, there are laws prohibiting such action. Wildlife biologists are proposing alternative solutions in dealing with raccoons.

Habitat

Raccoons are ubiquitous mammals found wherever there is water (ponds, rivers, lakes). They live in wooded areas near rivers, streams, and lakes but they can also live in coastal marshes, mountains, and urban places. They do not construct their own dens but instead rely on rock crevices, hollow trees, or dens created/abandoned by other animals. They also live in human houses especially in parts that are relatively warm like the fireplace chimney.

Raccoons are native mammals of North America but introduced to different countries such as Japan and European countries.

Diet

Raccoons are omnivores which mean they can eat both plants and animals. Although they prefer fruits and nuts, they also love eating insects, birds, worms, and garbage. Among the favorites of raccoons are water animals such as crayfish, clams, fishes, frogs, and snails. Raccoons can swim so they can gather food from the water. Sometimes, they hunt for young squirrels, rats, and gophers. Due to the fact that raccoons can eat anything, they can easily adapt to different environment and grow in number.

Reproduction

Raccoons mate between the months of January and March (breeding season). Male raccoons are loyal to their female partners for about a week then they will find other mates. Pregnancy will last for 63 days. Each pregnant raccoon will give birth to 1-8 kits or cubs between the months of April and June. The average liter size is 3-4. The males have no part in raising the cubs. The responsibility is bestowed to the females. The cubs live with their mothers until they learn how to hunt and able to live with their own.

Mortality and Longevity

Raccoons have shorter life span in the wild (up to 5 years) than in captivity (up to 20 years).

The major causes of raccoon mortality are hunting and vehicular collisions. Raccoons also die naturally due to distemper.

Raccoons as Carriers of Infection

Raccoons can be infected with parasitic roundworms called Baylisascaris procyonis. These parasites usually thrive at the small intestine of raccoons. The microscopic eggs of these parasites are released in the environment through the feces of raccoons. People may encounter the eggs through direct contact with raccoon feces or by touching objects contaminated with roundworm eggs. When your hands are contaminated with eggs and you do not wash them, there is a chance that the eggs will be transferred to your mouth. Several weeks after body entry, the eggs will hatch and the worms will develop into mature adults. Adult worms can cause various diseases to human. Children are highly vulnerable to roundworm infection because they occasionally play with soil or objects contaminated with microscopic eggs.

Maintaining a clean environment and preventing raccoon entry to your house vicinity are ways to avoid roundworm infection.[ad#afterpost]