Wondrous Wildlife
By Vern and Lori Gieger
Little Rascals

     There is no doubt about it! Baby raccoons are among the most adorable wild animals. With their unmistakable “bandit mask” and bushy, ringed tail they are easily identified.
     Raccoons are among the most intelligent animals, sometimes too smart for their own good. They are noted for their inquisitive curiosity. While it does get them into trouble, it’s their nature to touch and investigate everything they come in contact with. Being true to their nature, they seldom pass up the opportunity to investigate an interesting smell or crevice. A raccoon’s nimble fingers can easily turn doorknobs and even open refrigerators. Anything that can be opened, will be. Raccoons have learned to benefit from man to a degree; our trash is a treasure pile for them. In “raccoon country,” putting a full trash can out at night is like taking out a full-page ad. To a raccoon, it just has to be investigated. Who can blame them? A very tempting menu, not to mention an array of interesting objects just begging for a closer inspection.
     Raccoons are omnivorous and opportunistic eaters enjoying a wide variety of fruits and vegetables as well as crayfish, insects, birds, rodents, fish, etc. The myth that they wash their food is just that, they’re not really “washing” their food but rather they are kneading and tearing at it, feeling for inedible parts that should be discarded. However, this does not work well with sugar cubes or cotton candy! Hygienically speaking, they are very clean. However, give them a bowl of water and a bowl of food, and they will create a mess of epic proportions!
     They are stocky-bodied, usually solitary, and nocturnal mammals of the genus Procyon in the family Procyonidae. (No, I can’t pronounce that, either.) Adult raccoons are 9" to 12" high at the shoulders, 18" to 26" long, plus a 9" to 12" tail. Its weight is usually between 16 and 22 lbs., though occasionally one may exceed 30 lbs. They are great climbers and have strong feet, but they are flat-footed like humans and bears and therefore are slow runners. While raccoons will not attack unprovoked, if they are cornered and feel threatened, they are a formidable opponent.
     Raccoons are found primarily along streams and lakes near wooded areas. However, they are opportunists and may inhabit urban and recreational areas. Raccoons are not particular about den sites and may use tree hollows, hollow logs, caves, rock crevices, holes in the ground, and sometimes even storm sewers. They do not dig their own burrows; they prefer to let “someone else” do the work.
     While raccoons are quite willing to peacefully co-exist with man, man cannot say the same. Learning to live in harmony with wildlife takes more work and patience on our part than theirs. We must learn to appreciate them for what they are, and how they do benefit us. By understanding them, we better understand the world around us. For those of us who have pets, how many times have they made you laugh until your sides hurt? Or, on the other hand, made you cry? Getting to really know, appreciate, and love wildlife brings about the same emotions. Like children, animals can make us angry or fill our hearts with joy, make us laugh, or make us cry, but where would we be without them?
     If you encounter a wild animal that needs help, call L.W.R.R. 765-4916 (yep, all types of snakes, too).