No matter where you live, chances are raccoons are a part of your local environment and natural surroundings. In North America, raccoons are some of the most adaptable creatures alive and have been known to occupy rural and urban areas in various climates.
Racoons might even be one of those pesky pests around your house. Below is a list of facts that you may not have known about raccoons but are highly interesting!
Fact #1 – There are more than just one type of raccoon.
Many tend to think there is only one type of raccoon out there based on what they’ve seen rummaging through their garbage. However, there are actually six raccoon species that are native to both North and South America.
The most recognizable species is called Procyon lotor but other species can be found deeper in the south. They even live on tropical islands!
Fact #2 – Raccoons have dexterous hands.
A fun fact about raccoons is their physical dexterity, particularly with their hands. Like humans, raccoons have dexterous hands and are among the few animals that have this feature. Their dexterous hands is what gives them the ability to tear up gardens, break into coolers and rummage through garbage.
What you may not have known is the English word raccoon is derived from the Powhatan word “aroughcan” which translates as “animal that scratched with its hands”. The peculiar hands of raccoons are actually how they got their name!
Fact #3 – There are raccoons all around the world.
Raccoons have interesting origins! At one point in time, raccoons were not identifiable around the globe. In the 1920s, the very first raccoons were exported to Europe to be used as stock for fur farms. Due to bombing and farmers who lost their fur ambitions, many raccoons escaped and created a new population in the wild. This wasn’t exactly great for Europe as today they are considered to be an invasive species.
Over time, raccoons made their way as far as Japan. In the 1970s, raccoons became an obsession of Japanese children as a result of a popular anime cartoon featuring a cuddly star raccoon. Children demanded to have their own pet raccoons so many were imported into the country to fulfill this demand. Of course, many of these animals ended up in the Japanese wild.
Very few animals are known worldwide like raccoons are!
Fact #4 – The raccoons’ masks have a useful purpose.
In addition to the raccoons’ funny looking hands, their facial markings, appearing as a mask, are also a distinguishing feature of raccoons. The mask like appearance on raccoon’s faces is why they are often depicted as thieves and tricksters.
Although, the facial markings on raccoons are not just for looks, they help raccoons see clearly. Think of athletes that wear black paint or stickers below their eyes, a raccoon’s dark fur essentially does the same thing. The dark colour absorbs light thereby reducing glare that would block your vision for both athletes and raccoons.
Since raccoons are most active in the night time, less peripheral light makes it easier for them to identify contrast of the objects in their focus. The black facial markings help them do this thereby helping them see better in the dark.
Fact #5 – Raccoons are a lot smarter than you think.
In general, scientists view raccoons as highly intelligent animals. However, raccoons that are city dwellers are particularly clever and can reach a level of intelligence nearing cunning. Scientists believe that city dwelling raccoons are so smart because they regularly need to outsmart human made obstacles to survive.
In fact, studies of raccoons have shown that they learn to avoid major intersections and were able to open tricky garbage lids. City dwelling raccoons were able to put their country counterparts to shame in smartness in these studies!
Fact #6 – Raccoons were once used in laboratory experiments.
Instead of lab rats, we could’ve had lab raccoons. In the early 20th century, raccoons were intended to be the go to creature for animal experiments. At the time, scientists believed that raccoons were some of the most curious and intelligent animals out there meaning they were a good option for comparative psychology studies.
Raccoons were used for many psychological experiments, but they didn’t stay for long, as you probably have realized. The issue with raccoons was they were difficult to breed and challenging to keep high population numbers. Also, raccoons had a nasty tendency to chew through cages, pickpocket researchers and hide in air vents. Unfortunately, their big career break didn’t take off!
Fact #7 – The raccoon population is on the rise.
In a way, raccoons are a rare species because they have benefited significantly from the spread of humans. In the past few decades, the raccoon populations have increased substantially despite the destruction of the animal’s natural habitat. Raccoons have been able to thrive because they’re highly adaptable to their surroundings be it rural, urban or suburban. It is best to employ pest control measures to counter the rise in the raccoon population.
While raccoons can survive in towns and cities populated by humans, they can also survive in the forest. Raccoons can live off of birds, insects, fruits, nuts and seeds in the forest. Some raccoons even live in the forest but travel to human populated areas for food.