There are many wildlife animals that turn out to be great pets. As children, we tend to fancy any animal that looks different from our usual cats and dogs. This is one of the reasons why people would collect exotic animals as their pets. Others would prefer to be on the safe side and just have a dog or goldfish.
Raccoons are part of the growing wildlife that seems to be invading the urban jungle nowadays. At first glance, raccoons appear to be mischievous creatures with their distinctive black face band that looks like a bandit’s mask. Even children’s cartoons would show raccoons as animals of mischief.
Before finding out raccoon facts, you should know that “raccoon” is sometimes spelled “racoon” or colloquially called “coon”. They are native to North America but have increased in population in urban areas due to displacement.
Raccoons in Details
Raccoons can measure between 16 to 28 inches from head to hindquarters. Their bushy tail can reach up to 16 inches but the average would be 10 inches. Raccoon weight varies making them one of the most variably sized mammals. Some raccoons can weigh 2 kilograms while others can reach up to 14 kilograms. The average range is 3.5 and 9 kilograms. Male raccoons are around 20% heavier than the female. They can still be a handful if you plan on trapping and carrying them. Raccoons can even weigh twice as much during winter than spring because of fat storage. So far, the heaviest raccoon ever recorded was 28.4 kilograms and 55 inches in length. Try carrying that outside your house.
Raccoons in the Wild
Raccoons are incredible swimmers and fast runners. They can run as fast as 15 miles per hour and stay in the water for hours. They prefer staying in parts of the forest close to a stream or water source. Their original habitats are deciduous and mixed forests but they are extremely adaptable. They can now be found in mountains and coastal marshes.
Raccoons will practically eat anything but are often portrayed eating fish or clams. They are fond of eating creatures found in water such as crayfish, frogs, snails and snakes. They are considered omnivores in the wild. Therefore, their diet can consist of insects, rodents, birds and their eggs, dead animals, fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and slugs. They often dip their food in the water before eating them. This is why the raccoon’s scientific name, Procyon lotor, means “before-dog washer”. They may resemble a dog but are closer relatives of the gentler pandas.
Raccoons have extremely dexterous front paws. The word “raccoon” is derived from a native Powhatan term that means “one who rubs, scrubs and scratches with its hands”. It can be quite interesting to watch a raccoon use its front paws especially when looking for food. They have even showed the ability to unlace a shoe with their fingers. Not only are their paws dexterous, they are also hyper sensitive. On the other hand, raccoons are considered color blind. Funny as they themselves appear black and white.
Unless it’s time for breeding and nesting, raccoons are solitary creatures. Raccoons use dens for their shelter and young. You can find them hiding within abandoned burrows, under large rock piles or brush piles, hollow logs, and large holes in trees. Their young are called kits and remain in their dens up to seven weeks. After that time, the kits can walk, run and climb. Captive raccoons have the life span of 13 years but wild raccoons live up to 3 years only. The high morbidity is caused by vehicular accidents, starvation, predation, hunting and diseases. Common predators of raccoons in the wild are cougars, coyotes, bobcats, large owls, wolves, and eagles.
Raccoons are known to make different noises such as a purr and a variety of growls, snarls, and snorts. They can also make a chittering sound.
Raccoons in Residences
Raccoons in urban areas can be traced to their adaptability. Their first sighting in an urban location was back in 1920s in the suburb of Cincinnati. Compared to raccoons in the wild, urban raccoons tend to be heavier. They also tend to live longer due to having a more abundant supply of food such as pet food and garbage-can leftovers. There are also fewer predators in urban areas.
These creatures tend to make dens in attics and chimneys as it mimics their natural habitat of a hollow tree. Once raccoons get accustomed to a place, they will constantly return to mate and tear up the place. They can make a mess out of your chimney or attic.
Raccoons as Danger
Raccoons pose a risk in your house and your family. There is a high risk of rabies if you get bitten by a raccoon. A rabid raccoon once bit a woman in Central Park and she had to be given 15 shots to avoid possible rabies infection. She also had to receive five more during her follow-up consultation. Raccoon rabies should not be taken lightly. Your pets can get canine distemper when attacked by raccoons. Make sure your pets are vaccinated and protected. Aside from rabies, raccoons tend to carry roundworms. Roundworms in raccoon feces can cause mild to severe infection to humans and pets. Raccoons are also known to carry leptospirosis. They are also host to pests such as fleas, mites and ticks.
Raccoons in Control
Raccoons tend to search for food around the neighborhood. They can go over your vegetable garden, garbage can, fish pond or backyard. They also tend to create dens in your attic or chimney. The best way on how to keep raccoons away is controlling your surroundings. Raccoon control should start in prevention.
The first and foremost thing you must remind your children and yourself is to never feed raccoons. They may appear like your friendly dog but they can be aggressive and unpredictable. Feeding raccoons causes them to lose their fear of humans and established a concentration in your area. You do not want to be inviting new neighbors that you cannot handle.
Second raccoon deterrent is a tightly closed garbage can. It is easier to invest in a durable and secured garbage can than a professional wildlife control service. There are garbage cans with clamps and lock mechanisms in the market that would avoid raccoons from rummaging through your trash. Secure your garbage can in location to avoid any possible tipping. An open garbage is like an automatic raccoon bait without the trap.
If you have a dog or cat that enjoy your backyard, make sure they are indoors at night. Raccoons may attack your dog, especially if smaller in size. Raccoon bites can infect your pet with diseases as mentioned earlier. Lock your pet door at night to avoid having an unwanted visitor. You must also keep your bird feeders clean at night. Try placing cayenne pepper around the bird feeder as cayenne pepper is a natural raccoon repellent.
Check your barbeque area for any scrap food that may attract the raccoons. Make it a habit to thoroughly clean your barbeque grills and grease traps after every use.
Preventing denning sites is easy as long as you secure all entrances in your house. Raccoons usually establish their den sites in chimneys, attics, porches, and sheds. You can cover the entry points with metals or a thick wire mesh. Make sure there are no animals that will get trap when you seal the entry points. You can also use plastic spikes in areas where raccoon may move towards their den sites.
Trapping raccoons should be a last resort. Using raccoon traps to catch these ring-tailed creatures and relocating them would not really help your problem. Raccoons tend to go back to their original den site so it is better to control the situation before they start living in your neighborhood. Make your place as unappealing as possible for these medium-sized mammals rather than investing in raccoon traps. If you are still set in trapping a raccoon, make sure to use the right raccoon bait. Try sweet corn or smoked fish to attract them.
But if you do get invaded by raccoons, do not hesitate to call professional wildlife control. Getting rid of raccoons is usually a professional’s job. It is better to have them handle it than getting rabies from raccoon bites. Do not attempt to kill them as states have laws protecting these wild creatures. Deal with the problem as humane as possible.