Raccoon (Procyon lator)

 

Raccoon

Raccoons are mammals from the Raccoon, Ringtail and Coati family (Procyonidae) and of the genus and species Procyon lator. The species name means "bearer of the Dog Star (constellation)." They can grow to be a little more than a yard (950mm) in length. The fur on their backs and sides is brown with some black. Their bottom fur is grayish brown. Raccoons have a bushy tail with alternating black and brown rings that distinguish them from similar animals. They have a black mask around their eyes. This mask is outlined by light-colored fur.

They eat plants and small animals. The Raccoon's front paws are larger than their hind feet and have five fingers. They are excellent tree climbers as shown in the photographs. Therefore, they can obtain food wherever it is available. Raccoons have been known to open doors and refrigerators. Therefore, they can enter unlocked dwellings, raid the refrigerator and leave a mess. The mischievous efforts of the raccoon in the animated film "Over the Hedge" was not much of an exaggeration. They choose to live in woods near water and are residents of the woods around French Hill Pond. Much of their hunting is nocturnal but they may be seen foraging in the daytime. Many raccoons are killed on roadways while foraging at night because their markings make them difficult to see.

Raccoons are solitary, sedentary animals. They live in a den, usually a hollow log. The female raccoon accepts only one male with which to breed per season. The male lingers a few days after breeding and then moves on to find another female. The litter can be from one to seven young. The female will raise her young like a cat raises kittens. All her young are expected to find their own dens before the next breeding season. She will drive off any young who linger. Females that are less than a year old may become pregnant. These characteristics maintain a large and stable population in spite of road kill and natural predation.

Raccoon Raiding a Bird Feeder

As the photograph above shows, these mischievous critters are intelligent enough to get into containers that have food regardless of the steps taken to keep them out. They will rip open garbage bags and open garbage cans that are not firmly closed or locked. Raccoons have little fear of humans and may even display curiosity. Although they are not known to attack humans and can even be kept as pets, which is illegal in Maine, they can be rabid and, in the final stages of that disease, can become aggressive. Raccoons may be cute and cuddly but should not be handled or fed. They are found only in the Americas and, therefore, become a fascination to visitors from abroad.

 

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