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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Raccoon

Raccoon at Freedom Park, under the boardwalk, from my photo reference.

Although raccoons tend to be nocturnal mammals, I see them occasionally in the late afternoon at Freedom Park foraging for food in the cypress wetland on the eastern side. I caught this one on my digital camera looking up at me just as it passed under the boardwalk.

Raccoons are extremely adaptable; originally native to the Americas, they range from Canada into Central America, but are found throughout the world. They like to live near wetland areas: rivers, streams, swamps, and marshes – but also adjust to urban life, sometimes causing problems when they interact with humans in their search for food by raiding garbage cans and gardens.

With such distinctive features as a black “bandit’s mask” across the eyes and a bushy, ringed tail, raccoons are easy to identify. Their somewhat ungainly-looking bodies are a contrast to the small and delicately shaped feet and hands. These hands are sensitive and used to explore, manipulate, and clean foods such as crayfish and nuts. Raccoons are omnivores and eat a wide variety of fish and amphibians, small mammals and birds (including eggs), berries, insects, worms, and seeds.

I’ve learned some interesting facts about raccoons in my explorations:
• Scientists can’t seem to agree on the reason why raccoons wash or douse their food in water before eating.

• They prefer environments with vertical support, so they like woodlands with easy to climb trees.

• Raccoons make an appearance in Native American mythologies – as having spirit powers or a as an intelligent trickster.

• Raccoon pelts were used as currency as late as the early 1900’s. They are still trapped and hunted for their fur and meat.

• According to Wikipedia, raccoon was a traditional dish on American farms.

• Raccoons are adept at learning and have a good memory.

• Besides large predators like bobcats and panthers, their worst enemies are humans and automobiles.

• They leave unique tracks – the larger hind feet eclipse the smaller and daintier front feet, which resemble human hands.
And there is so much more to the common raccoon! Start your own explorations by visiting these informative links:

University of Florida IFAS Extension
Wikipedia
National Geographic

Teachers, students, and parents:

Please click here for a free downloadable PDF coloring page of this raccoon.

You can also visit my Flickr photostream for more of my visual nature journal entries.