Species: Loctor, Insularis, and Cancrivorus
And now Rocky Raccoon he fell back in his room
only to find Gideons Bible
Gideon checked out and he left it no doubt
To help with good Rocky's revival
Ah, oh yeah, yeah
Da, da, da, da
Rocky Raccoon - The Beatles
Raccoons are a smallish, intelligent nocturnal, omnivorous mammal, native to North and Central America. They have also been introduced into central Europe, especially Germany, having been initially introduced there by Luftwaffe general Hermann Goering. While there are three species of Procyon, Insularis lives only in the Caribbean, and Cancrivorus to the tropics. I shall be focusing on Loctor, the common raccoon. They range in colour from grey to reddish brown. They have rather distinctive black markings outlined in white upon their face, around their eyes and the nose, which really resembles a mask. As well, they have black "rings" upon their tails.
Their name comes from the Algonquin word arakun, which translates to "he scratches with his hand." The Latin name Procyon Loctor translates to Washing Pre-dog. Both of these refer to the raccoon's habit of "washing" food in water before they eat it. What they're really doing is softening up the edible parts of their food, making it easier for the raccoon to discard the inedible bits.
The naturally range from Panama, up to southern Canada, with the exception of the Rocky Mountains. They are one of the wild animals best able to adapt to life in urban areas. Their paws are quite nimble, allowing them to get into stuff like garbage, and sometimes allowing them to open doors. Many times they are considered quite the pest.
As adults, they measure between 20 to 40 inches in length, with a tail of 8 to 16 inches, and weigh between 10 to 35 pounds. Then generally only reach the upper end of the scale around fall, when they gain a lot of fat, in preparation for the winter. During this time, while they do not hibernate, they can sleep for up to a month at a time, although usually it's only a few days at a time. During warm spells, they will usually be active, venturing forth from whatever hollowed log, cave, or burrow they're living in at the time. During summer days, they'll sleep more in the open, under a pile of leaves, or on a log, or something like that.
As omnivores, they eat pretty much anything. Eggs, corn, grapes, nuts, rodents, cherries, fish, frogs, turtles. The list goes on. And as many of you may well know, they can get into humans garbage.
While they are solitary animals, they are not particularly territorial. When two raccoons meet, they'll generally growl at each other, but very rarely will they actually get into a fight. The size of their home range depends greatly upon ready availability of food, from as low as 0.1 km2 in urban areas, up to 50 km2 in the prairies. They prefer areas such as marshes, forests, and farmland.
Mating generally takes place between January and March, with a gestation period of a little over two months. The females are monogamous, only mating with one male per season. The males however, will stick around with a female for a couple weeks, and then move on to find himself a new woman. Litters average around 4 to 5. The mother will care for the young, carrying them around by the scruff of the neck, much like is done with kittens. They will generally be taught everything needed to survive by their mother by the time Autumn rolls around, and will definitely be pushed out by their mother by the next spring, when she's expecting a new litter.
In the wild, they live an average of 3 to 5 years, although exceptional cases of up to 16 years have been reported.
Now a days, their main predator is human beings. Shocking, eh? They both become roadkill as they scamper across roads, and and hunted, for food, for their pelts, or just for fun.
Without humans in the equation, they do fall prey to animals such as mountain lions, coyotes, and owls. This is a fairly small percentage of raccoon mortality, with a much larger number falling prey to starvation and disease, especially during their first year.
While there are some places where it is legal to keep raccoons as pets, they are not really domesticated. In captivity, they are susceptible to a variety of health problems, from disease, to obesity. Veterinarians tend not to be trained to treat raccoons, and it is very hard to find one who is willing to. And of course, they make a mess. Not only are they messy with their food, but they are very curious, which means they have a strong tendency to climb on things, and crawl or scratch their way into things, causing a deal of damage as they progress. As well, many of them tend to "revert" as they get older, becoming violent towards humans. So yeah, don't get one. Even if they are cute.
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a pet raccoon...," Patty's Wildlife Rescue. 2002. <www.pattyswildliferescue.com/20_reasons.htm> (July 1, 2006).