The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Raccoon
Story Of The Cobego
Story Of The Gazelle
Story Of The Chameleon
Story Of The Fossa
Story Of The Walrus
Story Of The Mole
Story Of The Pangolin
Story Of The Opossum
Story Of The Caffre Cat
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Story Of The Raccoon
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The raccoon is about the size of a large fox, and an inhabitant of Canada and various parts of the United States. It derives its name, lotor, from the habit it is said to possess of washing its food before eating it. Its skin is very valuable, and is much sought after by American hunters, who pride themselves on their skill in shooting this active and wary animal.
The food of the raccoon is principally small animals and insects. Oysters are also a very favorite article f its diet. It bites off the hinge of the oyster, and scrapes out the animal in fragments with its paws. Like a squirrel when eating a nut, the raccoon usually holds its food between its fore-paws pressed together, and sits upon its hind-quarters while it eats. Poultry are very favorite objects of its attack, and it is said to be as destructive in a farm-yard as any fox, for it only devours the heads of the murdered fowl. Like the fox, it prowls by night.
When taken young it is easily tamed, but very frequently becomes blind soon after its capture. This effect is supposed to be produced by the sensitive state of its eyes, which are only intended to be used by night; but, as it is frequently awakened by daylight during its captivity, it suffers so much from the unwonted glare that its eyes gradually lose their sight.
They delight to sport in the shallow water on the margins of pools and streams, where they capture the crayfish lurking beneath the stones, and the fresh-water mussels buried in the mud and sand. They also catch such fish as happen to get stranded or detained in the small pools near the shore, although they are unable to dive in pursuit of their prey. They are, how-ever, good swimmers. Although first-rate climbers, and making their nests in a hollow high up in some large trees, raccoons cannot be considered by any means thoroughly arboreal animals. Thus they neither hunt their prey among the tree-tops, nor gather nuts and fruits from the branches, nor do they feed upon the young shoots and twigs. Trees form, however, their resting and their breeding-places, and likewise their refuge when pursued by human or other foes. With the falling shades of night they invariably descend to hunt their prey and search for food.
The raccoon hibernates during the severest part of the winter, retiring to his nest rather early, and appearing again in February or March, according to the earliness or lateness of the season. Disliking to wade through deep snow he does not come out much till the alternate thawing and freezing of the surface, suggestive of coming spring, makes a hard crust upon which he can run with ease. He does not usually walk many miles during a single night, and consequently is soon tracked to the tree, in some hole of which he has retired for the day. It is unusual to find a raccoon alone, for they commonly live and travel in small companies, consisting of the several members of a single family. They do not return to the same nest every morning, but often make little excursions in various directions, being gone several clays at a time, and taking refuge, about daylight, in any convenient arboreal shelter. Though preferring a hollow limb high up in some giant. elm, ash, or basswood, they will put up with almost any kind of a hollow trunk. I have known them to spend the day in old stubs, in hollow logs, and even in the poor shelter afforded by the angle where a falling tree had lodged in a crutch.
In Central America and the more southern districts of North America, the raccoon remains active throughout the winter, as the climate would not necessitate any hibernation. In the Adirondacks the young the produced in the spring generally during the month of April; and there are usually from four to six in a litter. They remain with their parent about a twelvemonth. The nest which, as already mentioned, is placed high up in a tree, has but little care bestowed upon its construction.
It has long been known that this raccoon is in the habit of moistening its food with water before eating it; and it doubtless received its distinctive specific name from this habit, which has been of late years verified.
The crab-eating raccoon is a nearly-allied South American species, distinguished by its superior dimensions and its much shorter fur. It is found typically from Panama to Colombia and Guiana; but the raccoons found further south, and extending through Brazil to Paraguay, are entitled to rank as a distinct species, on account of their darker feet. They are commonly known as black-footed raccoons.
The coatis, or long nosed raccoons, are easily recognized by their long snouts, which are naked at the tip and which the animal moves up and down like a piece of rubber. Its claws are longer and stouter than those of the common raccoon. The white-nose coati is found in Mexico and Central America; the second species, the red coati, is found in South America from Surinam to Paraguay. They usually go about in small troops of from ten to twenty.
The raccoon is one of the most valuable of the fur-bearing animals of North America, and is consequently much persecuted. Raccoon skins were formerly used as a recognized circulating medium in the States of the Mississippi Valley, and were usually valued at 25 cents apiece.
The raccoon may be easily caught in steel traps; but it is essential that these should be set under water near the margins of swamps or streams. The more sporting method is, however, to hunt these animals at night with specially-trained dogs, which are usually a breed of fox-hounds.