Fact Sheet: Raccoons

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Sneaky little creatures, raccoons are mammals that were discovered in North America but can now be found in Europe and Japan since they have been introduced to those countries.  The average raccoon measures around 70 cm, from the tip of its nose to the edge of its tail. A fully-grown raccoon can weigh up to 10 kg and live up to 20 years in captivity, though in the wild they are expected to live a lot less than one in captivity.

 

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The most distinctive feature of the raccoon is the black mask that surrounds its eyes, and the thick layer of fur which keeps it warm during the cold winter months. Raccoons also have extremely sensitive and dexterous front paws, and have been found turning door knobs and opening jars.

The raccoon originally inhabited wooded areas and large forests, but today the raccoon has adapted to living in mountains and wetter habitats. The raccoon species has also moved closer to human communities, so it can more easily find food, which is why you may find them hunting in your garbage bins. Although they really mean no harm, many homeowners consider them pests.

Raccoons are grey omnivorous creatures, which means they eat plants and meat, however their favorite food is small fish, which is why you are most likely to find them in forests that are close to water.  Their diet mainly consists of small birds which they may occasionally eat.

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Raccoons are in fact very smart; before consuming freshly found food, they will wash it. However, the reason for this behaviour has not been discovered. There are about 10 different species of raccoons that range in size however don’t differ that much in appearance, and are mostly found in America, and North America.

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The sense of touch is essential for raccoons, probably the most important. Their small paws are covered in a spiny coating which protects them whilst they are not being used to help with eating their food. 

Raccoons, unlike other animals, tend to mate in late winter to the early spring. However, more southernly raccoon species, tend to mate later in the season, towards the beginning of summer, in June. After a pregnancy period of 2 months, the female raccoon will give birth to about 5 baby raccoons, which are called kits, or cubs.

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Raccoon kits are born blind and deaf, with both senses appearing within the first month. Baby raccoons are not born hairless but instead have a layer of light coloured fur, with the distinctive black mask being visible from birth. Raccoon kits are normally about 10 cm long at birth and weigh around 75 g. Raccoons are interesting species, but they are certainly not to be messed with, as they can become very, very irritated.

By Sofiya Lytvynova