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About Raccoons

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A raccoon is one of the most fascinating and among the most intelligent of wild animals. It is the state animal of Tennessee. Scientifically, raccoons make up the genus Procyon of the Family Procyonidae (5 toes on each foot, walk flat footed, tail rings), of the Order Carnivore (Primarily meat-eaters, large canine teeth ), of the Class Mammalia (Hair, warm blooded, drink milk from mother). There are seven species of raccoons including the common North American Procyon lotor (lotor from Latin "washer"), the South American crab-eating raccoon Procyon cancrivorus, and five other species, each confined to one or more small islands off Florida and Mexico and in the West Indies, as well as 25 geographic subspecies. Their closest relatives in the Procyonidae family include the ringtails, coatis and coatimundis but they are also related to the kinkajou, olingos and the lesser panda. The common name "raccoon" comes from the Indian word "aroughcun" or "arakum," meaning "he scratches with his hands." Tip: But if all these names are too much too remember, you can just call them Bandit, or Meeko, or Rocky, or Spot.

Socially, while raccoons are considered as usually solitary, it is the adult males which tend to be solitary; matriarchal family groups are quite social and will feed and den together into the fall. Raccoons are usually thought of as nocturnal animals. However, while they tend to be most active at night, healthy raccoons will also forage during the day. This is particularly true of nursing females. Despite their classification as carnivores, raccoons are really opportunistic omnivores (both meat-eater and plant-eater, as well as garbage can raider). Raccoons do not hibernate. They go through a period of decreased activity in the winter, which is referred to as torpor, but it is not technically hibernation. Winter also coincides with their mating season. So if you are used to seeing raccoons on your property and then saycome December you wonder where they have gone, they are either sleeping or...ahem...err...not sleeping. The raccoon is one of the most vocal of night animals and during mating season will scream, mew, growl and whistle. Baby raccoons are especially vocal and a rehabber will quickly learn to distinguish their numerous different sounds. Some say the raccoon can make over 200 different sounds. Observation: The one I love most is the purr-like sound they make. Like when my little guys are being bottle-fed and their tummies are almost full. Pure contentment.

Raccoons are inquisitive and seldom pass up the opportunity to investigate an interesting smell or crevice. They will probe a crack with their front feet and pull anything of interest from its hole for closer inspection.
 
Their fur is long and dense, a grizzled salt and pepper that varies from grayish-brown tipped with black above to light gray below. Albinistic (white) and Melanistic (black) individuals are said to be not uncommon.If The raccoon is easily identified by its black face mask and ringed tail. The mask helps reduce glare while aiding in camoflauge, and may enhance night vision. The tail usually has 5 to 7 complete dark rings, alternating with broader brown or gray rings, that completely encircle the tail and end in a dark tip. The tail is used as fat storage (of particular importance in the winter), balance when climbing , a brace when sitting up like a little teddy bear, to wag when they are happily nursing away.

This page was created on 08/27/04