THE RACCOON

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Raccoons are found in all types of habitats. Although they generally prefer wooded or wetland regions, over the past decade raccoons have become more comfortable living near human communities and do not fear people like most wildlife. In fact, they can be pretty bold.

A raccoon usually has one litter a year and its mating season is from March to May. Occasionally, though, the season can be prolonged through July. The gestation period is typically 63 days, and litters average from two to seven babies.

The raccoon is a nocturnal animal that ravages properties at night, looking for insects, fruits, vegetables, acorns, seeds, fish and small mammals in the spring. During the other seasons, it feeds on acorns, seeds, fruits, vegetables, insects and other invertebrates. The raccoon is easily distinguishable by its black-masked face and ringed tail. It has husky build and generally weighs between 15 and 40 pounds.

It's coat is full and shaggy and it's coloring is gray with shadings of tan on it's flanks. The heavily furred tail is usually a tan and gray with black rings. The long slender toes on the front feet give the raccoon great dexterity in grasping food and the larger surfaces on the back feet give it superb agility in climbing for food.

The raccoon has earned its infamous nickname, "Bandit", which was first given to it because of its black-masked face. But, it's important to remember that humans have virtually forced the raccoon into the title. Urbanization and land development have taken the majority of the raccoon's natural romping grounds away but, rather than diminish, these hardy critters have adapted and flourished.

So, we have problems with them claiming back "our" space for their own. Consequently, raccoons topple our garbage cans, nest in our attics, roam our lawns for food and prey upon the fish in our ponds.