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Raccoon Facts and Fiction

Some call raccoons cute, some call them a menace; some feed them everyday, while some search for raccoon repellants. There are some real interesting stories going around about these creatures. Notorious as they are, this article catalogs some raccoon facts and fiction.
They don’t have raccoons in my part of the world. So, spotting my first raccoon at Creve Coeur Lake was a fascinating experience, to say the least. Still with the image of that first ‘not-so-timid’ raccoon in my head, I am writing this article on raccoons. The article starts off with some general raccoon information and then leads on to some interesting raccoon facts and fiction. Let us explore what gives these creatures their infamous notoriety.

General Raccoon Facts and Information
A raccoon has a real large family if I ever saw one, I mean, where else would it get the size of a dog, the face of a fox, the overall looks of a badger and the habits of a squirrel, while being a distant relative of the bear. Right, so, the raccoon is a warm blooded mammal that can be found just about anywhere, where there is any water to be had, and oh well, in the United States (that does narrow down the potential habitats). Some other general raccoon facts are listed below.
  • Raccoons are omnivorous and eat just about anything. While fruits, fish and anything in the garbage can, will do just fine for them, these notorious nocturnal garbage raiders will think nothing of chowing off your cat’s tail.
  • Being stuffed with an amazing amount of survival instinct, means that a raccoon can never starve to death (of course, with the amount of garbage, humans pile up, it is not all that surprising); can never be out of habitats (they can live anywhere, in dug outs, dens, hollow trees and even human homes, especially in the chimneys); and can never be out-adapted (dexterous limbs allow then to do just about everything, including grasping and throwing.)
  • Except during mating season or in areas where food is plentiful, raccoons usually roam the lands solo. The most interesting raccoon fact is that raccoons move about quite a lot, changing homes and dens (and even the areas they frequent) in random, frequent and irregular patterns.
  • Baby raccoons, known as kits, are born in litters of two or three and remain with their mothers for only about 12 weeks. Between you and me, not even someone who’s been harassed by raccoons for all their lives would claim raccoon kits to be ‘not cute’. They are just absolutely adorable.
  • Wild raccoons only live for about 3 years while captive ones have recorded a life span of 13. Wild raccoons have numerous threats, namely, human encounters, trappers, cars, diseases and predation by their natural predators (coyotes, bobcats and cougars).
Raccoon Stories - The Fact and The Fiction
There are a number of weird stories doing the rounds about raccoons. Let us examine a few of them.
  • Many stories suggest that raccoons are nature’s bandits and the mask around their eyes and the rings on their tails do seem to suggest so. The fact that they go about stealing pet food and scourging garbage cans for edibles seems to suggest so as well. Yet, the raccoon fact is a tad bit different. The mask around their eyes is believed to enhance their night vision by reducing glare.
  • Raccoons are always seen in large dens and many believe that they put in a lot of effort constructing them. The fact behind this fiction however, is that raccoons either rely on other animals to make their dens for them (by bullying them out of the den and making the den their own) or they rely on natural wear and tear on rocks and wood to get their natural homes.
  • Many people believe that raccoons wash their food before they eat it and while that may be a true raccoon fact, the reasons behind the habit are quite different. Raccoons do dip their food in water, but that is just to moisten and manipulate it and not due to any natural health and cleanliness concerns.
  • Many people mistakenly assume that because a raccoon looks cute and cuddly, it is harmless. Here’s the most important raccoon fact. Raccoons are wild animals, and like most wild animals, they are armed and dangerous when threatened, cornered or treated as pets. Believe it or not, numerous dog deaths are recorded in raccoon encounters and if it can kill a dog, it can certainly fatally injure a human.
  • The term ‘rabid raccoon’ is badly misused. While raccoons are known carriers of rabies, they are not all rabid; just like dogs. In fact, raccoon droppings may be more dangerous than a raccoon bite, for it may contain parasites that are fatal to humans.
  • Last but not the least, many believe that the best answer to a raccoon problem is to call the authorities, catch them and rehabilitate them to a wilder location. This may be the most erroneous raccoon fact, for raccoons are known to find their ways back to their original territories. Not only may they get run over or hunted during their journey, but even if they do not return, there is a threat that the local raccoons in the new territory may hunt him down as an outsider.
The best way to handle a raccoon problem is to cut off their access to garbage, not feed pets outside, block access to denning site and ensure nothing considered as raccoon food is left outside, no matter how small the quantities. Raccoons are neither the friendly neighborhood garbage pickers, nor are they the notorious attackers and killers that they are considered to be. They are just wild animals that ought to be just that, wild!
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Published: 6/11/2010
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