The raccoon is a very cute and funny animal. These animals are found not only in the wild, but recently they have become popular among pets. Raccoons come out boldly to people, near their habitats, like cats, they come to the porch of any house. However, they are predators and have a very wayward character. The raccoon got its name for the desire to rinse all the food before eating.
Origin of the species and description
Raccoons belong to the order of predators. The word «raccoon» translated from Latin means «dog-like». After long discussions of scientists, a separate family of raccoons was allocated for raccoons. Experts did not manage to come to a consensus: the raccoon has common features with dogs, is close to the cat family and at the same time to the weasel family. There were even options to assign it to the bear family and call it «washing bear».
Ancient fossils indicate that this animal species appeared approximately 30 million years ago in North America. Later spread to South America. However, there are other assumptions that raccoons were brought to America from Asia, and are much more ancient on this continent, but reliable facts have not yet been found. Raccoon — This is a medium-sized animal, stocky, dense physique. It is in terms of complexion that he looks like a bear. Easily recognizable by its sharp, contrasting muzzle and striped tail.
Raccoons are very intelligent and interesting to watch. Their ingenuity is very developed, and the habits of raccoons are also very diverse. It is for these qualities that people keep them at home, and the raccoon is completely different from a wild animal.
Appearance and Features
The body is isometric, slightly elongated. The length of the raccoon varies from 40 to 70 cm. It has short crooked paws, a fluffy and rather long tail — up to 50 cm. Growth at the withers, standing on four legs, is only about 30-35 cm. The weight of an adult can reach 18 kg, but on average it ranges from 6 to 12 kg. The muzzle is short, wide with a pointed nose. The eyes are round black, on top of the sides are erect ears, rounded at the ends. The jaws of raccoons are miniature, but strong with straight small thin fangs and small other teeth.
The paws of the raccoon are shortened compared to dogs, cats and foxes. When moving, he puts them with his feet outward and slightly rolls over. Raccoons are able to climb trees due to their tenacity, even upside down. The structure of the front paws is very interesting: they resemble human ones. The fingers are long, divided, with massive thick claws at the ends. The raccoon takes food in its front paws, sorts and pulls it, can wash it for a long time. Fine motor skills of their fingers are very developed, they can often be caught doing this kind of activity.
Video: Raccoon gargle
The skin is black, it is clearly visible on the fingertips. The coat is of medium length, more fluffy on the tail than on the body. The color is gray to black, darker on the back and sides than on the belly. On the belly, the fur can be yellowish, light. The tail is decorated with alternating contrasting stripes, light gray, yellowish and dark grey-black. Winter fur in an animal may have a brown tint. The muzzle of a raccoon has a very interesting color, it distinguishes it from other animals.
Black markings around the eyes, white or light nose, except for the very tip. Above the eyebrows and on the cheeks light hair. It turns out the so-called mask, which is unique to raccoons. This species of predator can live in different latitudes, but northern individuals have much more fat reserves, up to 50% of their weight. This is approximately a three-centimeter layer all over the body.
Where does the raccoon live?
Raccoons choose living conditions near water bodies. Usually near rivers, streams, lakes or swamps. They prefer deciduous or mixed forests located in relative lowlands. Raccoons make their homes on the shore, under the roots of trees, in the trees themselves, caves or other secluded places in the forest. Rotten, rotten and fallen trunks with notches are especially convenient for them, where they can comfortably settle down for the night. For them, abandoned burrows of other animals or a barn built by man are also suitable.
The most common raccoons are in North America, where they come from. They are also called differently American raccoons. They inhabit the entire forest area from the isthmus between the two Americas to Canada. In South America, they are distributed only to the north of Argentina, to the south the climate is too harsh for them. Later they were transported to the countries of modern Europe: Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands. And also to Azerbaijan, the Caucasus, Lithuania, and all coastal countries. It is also known that raccoons have taken root in the south of Russia along the banks of the Volga.
Raccoons are absolutely not afraid of people, rather the opposite. They go out to settlements and cities, and do not mind getting some food from a person or rummaging through a garbage can. Raccoons are very calm about anthropogenic factors and can easily settle right next to a summer cottage and even gravitate towards human society.
What does a raccoon eat?
For In order to provide themselves with food, raccoons rely mainly on the sense of smell, it is better developed in animals than other senses. And the raccoon finds all his food by smell, sniffs it again, and if it satisfies him, he starts the meal.
In nutrition, raccoons are unpretentious, they eat a variety of foods, and in the absence of the main one, they expand the usual framework and try new things. It all depends on the latitude of its habitat. If seasonality is pronounced, then raccoons are forced to focus on a certain type of food that prevails in a particular season. In the spring, there is little vegetation and a long time before harvest.
Most of the nutrients and macronutrients the raccoon receives from the animal food it is served:
- bird eggs;
- voles mice;
Having penetrated the chicken coop, raccoons can grab a chicken or a small chicken by the throat. But on larger animals, such as muskrats or waterfowl, raccoons do not attack, but they can finish off a painful individual or eat an animal that died by its own death. By the end of summer, vegetable food appears in abundance, and the raccoon then goes to it for the rest of the summer and autumn.
Vegetable food also consists of several main groups:
- various fruits — apples, ranetki, pears, apricots and the like;
All The raccoon rinses food in water before eating, even if it is clean or specially washed in advance. Experts came to the conclusion that this is the instinct of catching floating prey that has been preserved in raccoons. It is interesting to note that the time spent washing food is inversely proportional to the animal's appetite. These are the special eating habits of the raccoon.
Character and Lifestyle Features
Raccoons are more nocturnal animals, they hunt and eat at night, and sleep in daylight. In the northern regions, raccoons are adapted for hibernation, they have a fairly large layer of fat under the skin, which serves as a source of heat and nutrients. Hibernation can last up to 5 months, but more often — she is shorter. Animals can winter both singly and crammed into one den in a whole group of up to ten individuals. There is no division of territory here. Sleep is usually not strong, raccoons can wake up on a particularly warm day, but then lie back down.
In the spring, after full awakening, they are usually hungry and immediately go hunting. Territories are dispersed and demarcated again. In the southern regions, animals do not hibernate, but are much less active. Raccoons have a lively character, they are cunning, smart, they themselves are eager to fight, and they also know how to have fun with improvised materials. Often a raccoon can be caught doing interesting things: he can twist a blade of grass around his nose or assemble a certain building from hay and make sure that it does not fall.
It is worth noting that raccoons are very tenacious: they calmly endure anthropogenic impact, and are also resistant to many infections. However, when encountering raccoons, you should be careful and keep your distance — they can carry dangerous diseases.
Social structure and reproduction
Raccoons exist alone, with each adult marking out a rather large territory, approximately square kilometer. Neighboring raccoons can enter someone else's territory, because of this, strikes and fights can occur. On their territory, they not only know where everything is, but also build themselves several secluded corners where you can take a nap so that no one disturbs them.
In the mating season, males begin to look for females. Usually it is dated for early spring, but can drag on until the beginning of summer. Males mate with all the females they come across. Immediately after fertilization, they are removed. After nine weeks of gestation, cubs are born. Most often, from three to six cubs are born, very rarely there is one or, conversely, many up to eight or nine. The offspring of raccoons are called puppies. They are blind and helpless. After three weeks, they open their eyes and begin to explore the world.
The lactation period lasts up to two months. After three or four months, little raccoons are already independent. They leave to get their own food and settle in their personal territory. In a year, newborn females will be able to produce their own offspring. Under natural conditions, the life span of each individual is approximately equal to five or six years. Accurate statistics on the lifespan of raccoons living in people's apartments have not yet been compiled.
Natural enemies of raccoons
Raccoons are not large predators, so even adults have many dangerous enemies that can harm or kill. Among them, the most common are those that prefer the same living conditions as raccoons. These are:
They can hunt raccoons, but they do not always manage to defeat this small, but cunning and nimble predator. Raccoons not only can fight with them and scare them away, but also deftly run away from them, quickly running along the ground, climbing and jumping through the trees. The maximum speed at which raccoons can run reaches 25 km/h. Cubs and smaller individuals may be more threatened, for example, large snakes and owls may attack them, while large individuals will no longer dare.
In addition to the life-threatening forest dwellers in the neighborhood, raccoons have several other dangers. For example, deep pits with sheer walls and pools. The raccoon is not able to independently get out of a deep pool or climb a vertical earthen wall. Raccoons often become victims of cars, falling under the wheels on the highway. They can also fall into any trap set, for example, on a wolf or fox. And near agriculture, guard dogs can attack raccoons.
Population and species status
Raccoon gargle — native of North America. From there, they moved to the northern part of South America, and they were purposefully transported to Europe and Asia. Raccoons were settled in different countries — somewhere they easily took root, but somewhere they died. As the results of observations of the distribution of raccoons showed: in the northern latitudes, where long snowy winters, this species did not take root. On the other hand, news about the excessive number of individuals in Krasnodar or Dagestan regularly enters the news page.
In general, this species of animals does not raise any questions or concerns from the World Conservation Union, because it is very common in suitable habitat conditions . In addition, environmental degradation, construction and tourism in their habitat does not bother raccoons. They adapt very well to environmental changes, anthropogenic influences and easily tolerate dangerous diseases or are not susceptible to them at all.
Over the past ten years, the gargle raccoon has become very popular among pets. However, when deciding to get yourself such an animal, you need to consider that it is nocturnal and has a peculiar character. For not having the opportunity to properly care for the animal and pay the necessary amount of attention, it is better to wait a little with this idea.