19 Facts About Racoons That Are Important To Know

Written By Jill Taylor

Raccoons are one of nature’s greatest paradoxes. On the one hand, they’re adorably furry; on the other, they’re incredibly devious and endlessly destructive. Some people are Team Raccoon, while others hate the critters. For those still sitting on the fence, here are 19 facts that you should know about raccoons.

They are Criminal Masterminds

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Raccoons may look cuddly, but they’re geniuses when it comes to breaking into people’s garbage cans. As CBC reports, conflict between humans and raccoons has been brewing in Toronto. No matter how many times the city redesigns its garbage cans, the raccoons always pillage their tasty trash. Being outsmarted by a raccoon has got to sting.

They Have a Twisted Family Tree

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All creatures are related to some extent, but raccoons have some especially surprising relatives in the animal kingdom. Their connection to weasels makes sense, as both are small creatures. But few people probably know that raccoons are also related to bears – now there’s one relative that raccoons probably don’t want at their Thanksgiving dinner!

They are Naturally Inquisitive

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Raccoons are naturally curious creatures who love to explore the world around them. Unfortunately, this inquisitive nature sometimes backfires when it causes conflict with humans and other animals. There is a silver lining, though—their notable intelligence helps raccoons survive in the wild.

They’re North American, Born and Bred

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Like Bruce Springsteen, raccoons were born in the USA. They originally emerged in forested areas, but they’ve since spread all over the continent and aren’t shy of human civilizations! Some people think of raccoons as pests, but it’s arguable that they possess the same pioneering spirit as the first American settlers.

Swimming Comes Naturally to Them

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When they’re not invading human homes, raccoons spend a lot of time near natural bodies of water. However, more adventurous raccoons still enjoy a dip when they visit the big city. They can sometimes be found swimming in people’s outdoor pools – be sure to check the water before taking a plunge!

Their Diet is Bizarre

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Nobody likes a fussy eater, but it’s possible to be too open-minded when it comes to food. Raccoons are omnivorous and completely without prejudice when it comes to planning their next meal. This can result in some bizarre flavor combinations, including fruits and nuts, dead animals, and even people’s days-old trash.

They Can Carry Rabies

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Cats, foxes, and dogs can all transmit rabies, but raccoons are also guilty of spreading the disease. In fact, the CDC advises seeking immediate medical care in the event of raccoon-related injuries. These animals might be cute, but it’s important to be aware of the risks they pose.

They Have Spread Around the World

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Despite originating in North America, raccoons can now be found around the world, with the rodents even reaching Japan. American soldiers introduced raccoons to northern France by releasing them from an airbase near the city of Laon during the 1960s. Indeed, it seems that raccoons can survive just about anywhere.

Baby Raccoons Have a Surprising Name

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Dogs have puppies, cats have kittens, and horses have foals. Raccoons, however, have kits. These tiny animals (they often weigh less than 100 grams) are born without the iconic mask markings of adult raccoons, and they spend their first few weeks with their mothers before setting out into the world.

They’re Most Active at Night

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Raccoons may not literally be night owls, but they still use up the bulk of their energy during the darker hours. Thanks to their powerful night vision, they’re able to forage at night. However, raccoons don’t waste the daylight hours, which they use to catch up on some much-needed beauty sleep.

Their Tails Aren’t Just for Balancing

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Raccoons are great at climbing, partly due to their bushy tails. These help the animals stay balanced while they scrabble over obstacles, but they also have another benefit. The striped tail plays a part in attracting mates – CTV News points out that tailless raccoons might struggle to find a breeding partner.

They Don’t Get Along with Birds

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Disney movies show animals living in peace and harmony. However, real life is more brutal and features far fewer spontaneous musical numbers! Raccoons often plunder bird nests for their eggs and can even snack on fully grown birds, sometimes forcing their feathery prey to fly away to safer spots.

They Can Be Pets in the U.S.

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Raccoons might not seem like the most obvious choice of pet, but it’s actually legal to own them in several U.S. states. Ohio, Michigan, and Florida are just three of the thirteen places where pet raccoons are allowed. Residents should keep this in mind when looking for their next animal companion!

Their Name Originates from Native American Languages

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According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, raccoons got their name when European settlers mispronounced the existing indigenous term. The Algonquian Indians initially referred to these animals as creatures with scratching hands (‘arakun’ in their language). This was subsequently distorted into the word ‘raccoon’.

They Have Five Fingers, Like Humans

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These rodents are incredibly dexterous because they have human-like paws, with five fingers on each hand. This results in easily recognizable pawprints and helps the raccoons manipulate objects, food, and their environment. Their fingers also help when it comes to climbing.

They (allegedly) Wash Their Food

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Good food hygiene is essential, even for raccoons—or is it? Although their habit of dunking food in water is often thought to be about washing it, the raccoons actually have different motives. Instead, it’s thought that dipping their food helps to create a more rewarding textural experience for hungry raccoons.

They’re Natural Single Mothers

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Although the nuclear family structure may be common among humans, raccoons handle childrearing very differently. After giving birth (typically to two to five kits), the mother is entirely responsible for raising her offspring. However, raccoons soon leave home – PBS reveals that they leave their mothers 13 to 14 months after being born.

A Famous Historical Figure Encountered Them

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Columbus is said to have been the first European to encounter and write about raccoons. Reaching the New World was his most significant achievement, especially considering the technology available at the time, but meeting raccoons must have been the cherry on top.

They Have Great Memories

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It’s often said that elephants never forget, and it seems that raccoons don’t either. Scientists have tested the recall ability of these furry creatures and have reached some startling conclusions. When tested, raccoons demonstrated the ability to recall events from months before, highlighting their natural intelligence.

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