Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Raccoons
Raccoons are best known for their bandit-like masks and matching black rings on their bushy tails, as well as their nimble athletics. Although they've been kept as pets, even by notable people—including President Calvin Coolidge—they are wild animals and should be treated as such. That doesn't mean you can't get to know more about these clever critters, though. Here are a few things you might not know about raccoons.
They're Related to Bears
You might think the masked raccoon looks similar to a panda, and this is no coincidence. The two species are closely related, even though giant pandas are part of the Ursidae family of bears, while raccoons fall into Procyonidae family. Incredibly, DNA analysis puts red pandas, which are smaller than other pandas, into the raccoon family.
They're Smarter than the Average Bear
Rankings on the mammal IQ scale show that raccoons are smarter than cats and almost as smart as monkeys. It's no surprise, then, that they have a fairly diverse language, including more than 51 different sounds like growling, hissing, purring, screaming, whinnying, whistling, and more.
They're Incredibly Agile
Raccoons have a reputation for being sneaky thieves, and it's probably because they're not only smart, but agile. They're good at climbing and swimming, for starters, but they also have five fingers that allow them to tackle complex tasks like opening doors and trash cans. They're even dexterous enough to unlace shoes.
Their hind feet can rotate 180 degrees, which makes raccoons surprisingly nimble, especially when climbing down from high perches. They can, however, also drop down from a height of up to 35 feet. As it turns out, they also run at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour; so good luck catching the one that's been digging through your trash.
Raccoons are omnivores that enjoy a diverse diet. They subsist largely on produce, foraging for fruits like berries, cherries, apples, grapes, peaches, watermelons, and citrus fruits, as well as nuts like acorns and walnuts. They also eat insects, bird eggs, fish, frogs, crayfish, small mammals, and other protein sources, depending on their environment.
Raccoons are known as a nuisance for knocking over trash cans. This is because they have adapted to look for food in the trash in urban environments. Although they will eat many different types of food, it doesn't mean they're not picky eaters. Their sense of touch is very sensitive, and they use their hands to feel items to figure out what they want to eat.
They Can Live Long Lives
In the wild, raccoons live about 3-5 years on average, although they have been known to live to about 16 years of age in captivity. One captive raccoon reportedly reached the age of 21. Unfortunately, they can be killed by predators in the wild, although they are more likely to lose their lives to automobiles.