Raccoon

Raccoon.jpg
The raccoon is somewhat larger than a common cat and has a pointed snout. Its forefeet bear some resemblance to hands and are used as such, for it digs up small mussels out of the sand, which form its food when there are no acorns or chestnuts to be had…. It is fattest in autumn and winter, when it lives in hollow logs like a bear without seeking food. The do not hibernate as long as do the bears. In a severe winter it retires for two whole months, otherwise, only four weeks. The flesh is wholesome and tastes like bears' meat and its skin is useful to hatters.

David Zeisberger, History of the North American Indians, 1779-1780.

Facts

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Scientific Name: Procyon lotor
Habitat: Woodlots with nearby a water source.
Adult Weight: 5 - 35 lbs., average 15 - 18 lbs.
Adult Body Length: 18 - 28 inches; tail length: 8 - 12 inches
Breeding Period: late January - March
Litters Per Year: 1
Litter Size: 2 - 7, average 4
Life Expectancy: 3 - 4 years, maximum 13 years
Foods: Omnivore - fruits, nuts, grains, eggs, insects, crayfish, frogs and mice

Notes

These nocturnal animals are easily identified by the dark mask over its eyes and ringed tail. They are often seen turning over rocks or digging under logs in search of food. . Raccoons do not have to "wash" their food before they eat. Raccoons, when hunting, rely on their sense of touch more than eyesight. Biologists believe this is one reason why they wet their front feet, it makes the sense of touch more sensitive. They also rely heavily on their sense of smell.

Because of their skillful use of their front paws, Raccoons are capable of tasks other animals would not be able to do such as moving objects and opening containers and doors. This ability has made Raccoons the focus of many stories portraying them as crafty and sly.

Raccoons can be found across the United States, Canada and parts of Mexico.

History

Prehistory

Archaeologists believe that the Raccoon was hunted and trapped by most prehistoric Indian cultures. The image of the Raccoon has been found on Hopewell effigy pipes.

Pre-Settlement

Raccoon fur was an important commodity in the trade between American Indians and European traders.

Settlement

Early settlers found many Raccoons in Ohio. They hunted Raccoons for food and for pelts. Pelts were used particularly in the making of hats. This "'coonskin cap" was made popular through the stories and legends of Daniel Boone.

Nineteenth Century

The sale of Raccoon pelts by Athens County residents in 1804 helped to purchase books for the start of the Western Library Association. This later became known as The Coonskin Library.

Twentieth Century

Currently in Ohio, Raccoons are hunted for sport and trapped for their pelts, which are used in the fur industry for collars, cuffs and hats. However, there has been a steady decrease in the number of hunters and trappers in the state. As a result, Raccoon populations have soared 800% in the last 15 years. They have had to expand their range and habitat, becoming very urbanized. It is becoming more and more common to see a Raccoon in a backyard, sifting through garbage cans or raiding a garden plot. Raccoons are found in all 88 Ohio counties.

Because of this tremendous increase, there is a growing risk of Raccoon rabies and distemper in the state. Raccoon rabies has been spreading rapidly throughout the Midwest and eastern United States since 1995. As with most wildlife, Raccoons are not aggressive towards humans and will try to avoid them. Humans should make no attempt to make contact with a Raccoon, including touching or feeding.

See Also