10:20 p.m. - 2005-07-09
Critter Lovahs that is! Here is the promised entry on my nighttime marauder of late.
The tale comes from the previously mentioned Beaver Creek Valley State Park. We'd been told by the warden that timbler rattlers do frequent the park, but we probably didn't need to worry about it.
R and I had settled down for the night, and about an hour later, it started raining! Yet another reason an air mattress is invaluable in a tent! The noise from the rain made me restless, and I tossed and turned and I guess slept a little. But at around 4:30 I heard a noise! I thought about how nice and dry a spot under our tent might be for an attacking rattler! I kept hearing the noises, and mentioned this to R.
Grabbing my mag-lite, I zipped open the tent and shone the light towards the noise...the culprit was a big raccoon, jackin' our BBQ chips! It ran away, and I started laughing. (I guess there still could have been a snake under our tent, but I was no longer afraid.)
And two weeks ago, as I was driving home from work at 12:45 am, there was a fat raccoon in my neighborhood, grabbing something from the middle of the road and carrying it over to a tree on the side of the street. Since there were no cars behind me, I paused and observed the coon daintily eating. Yay!
Raccoons are from the sub-order Caniforma, as are our friends bears, dogs, walruses, and foxes.
Weird fact: the closest genetic relative to bears are sea lions!
Ok, back to coons. The Algonquin tribe of Native Americans called them "arakum", which means "he scratches with his hands", and from which "raccoon" is derived. The Latin name is Procyon lotor, the latter part meaning, "the washer". Similarly, in German, raccoons are called Washbar. (With an umlaut over the second "a"...can you do that on here?)
Raccoons are originally North American, and are related to ringtails, coatis and kinkajous, which I think are all South American. They've been successfully introduced to Europe and Asia though.
Adult coons can get up to three feet long and up to 40 lbs. Males are 10 to 30% larger than the females. They can can travel from one to three miles a night looking for food, can run 15 miles per hour, and can swim. Their vision and hearing are excellent. Raccoons don't hibernate but instead store energy for winter in the form of body fat. In the coldest northern regions, this can grow to up to 50% of their weight!
In the "ew, gross" section, my Dad's trapping shed is liberally splashed with coon fat at the end of the season!
Raccoons live all over the country, and probably in or around your neighborhood. They can often be found in and around trees, as they were originally forest creatures, after all. But like foxes, rats and mice, raccoons benefit from human's buildings and refuse for shelter and food, as well.
Omnivores, coons have canine front teeth for tearing into flesh, but also flat molars for plant foods. Some raccoons mostly eat corn. Insects are eaten frequently, too. Bird eggs, fish, roadkill, fruit and crustaceans also make tasty meals.
Raccoons often make nests in trees, but also use abandoned woodchuck holes, caves and buildings for homes. They will travel in a straight line to a good food source, and prefer areas with access to water as well.
Boy and girl raccoons only hang out together during mating season, when the males extend their nightly travels to find some booty. The mating period lasts from Feb. through June, depending on latitude. After the love, the females are pregnant for about 65 days, then the babies (3 to 7) are born, blind and helpless. In 20 days or so, the babies eyes open, and 50 days after that they are weaned. Raccoon mamas are good mamas, as the babies stay with her through their first winter, and often will live in the same area after they have left her.
A cute baby 'coon, from www.urbanwildlifecontrol.com:
I don't know how much my Dad earns per raccoon pelt, but coon coats were the rage in the 1920's and individual furs sold for $14 apiece!
Wendell has a raccoon fur coat she bought at goodwill.
I hope you found this raccoon write-up informative and furry, and fatty.