Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Animal of the Week: Raccoon

The raccoon although considered a pest by some, is one of the most adaptable mammals in the Northern Hemisphere. Although it’s primary habitat is the forests of North America, it’s versatility has enabled them to successful live in urban areas. Raccoons boast extremely dexterous front paws plus a high level of intelligence. Studies have shown that raccoons can remember solutions from tasks from three years ago. Due to accidental escapes and deliberate introductions raccoons are now also found in Europe and Japan.

Racoons were originally believe to be solitary animals but evidence exists suggesting small groups of related females and separately, unrelated males will defend a territory from intruders. In captivity raccoons have lived to up to 20 years but in the wild the average life span is only two to three years. In the wild the coyote, fisher, bobcat, red fox, and great horned owl prey upon raccoons while in urban areas humans, especially cars are their biggest danger. Good news is that the racoon is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Endangered List.

Raspberries, black cherries, beechnuts, acorns, corn, apples, and fungi are some plant materials prominent in the diet of the omnivorous raccoon. Birds such as ducks and their eggs, turtles and their eggs, mice, voles, bats, cottontails, muskrats, ground and tree squirrels, fish, snakes, and frogs are examples of raccoon prey. Invertebrates (insects, earthworms, freshwater mussels, and especially crayfish) are a major dietary component, too. The raccoon eats both the flesh of dead animals (carrion) and garbage. It was once believed that raccoons wash all their food but this is a myth. They have been observed washing food in captivity but this is now believed to be behaviour to reenact finding food in aquatic environments.
Raccoon distribution - native and introduced

Raccoons are best known for the black eye masks resembling that of a bandit or villain. This has given them a reputation for mischief both in mythology and in today’s popular belief. There are different beliefs on how the mask assists raccoons in day to day life. Some believe that the contrast between this and lighter rings around the eyes help with communication via facial posturing and expression. Another belief is that the black reduces glare, thus increasing visual ability at night.

The most important sense for raccoons is touch. They have extremely sensitive pads on their paws with almost two-thirds of the area responsible for sensory perception in the raccoon's cerebral cortex is specialized for the interpretation of tactile impulses. This is more than in any other studied animal. When it comes to vision, raccoons are believed to be colour blind or at least have a poor ability in distinguishing colours. However they seem to be great at recognising green light.

If you are having problems with raccoons, here is a helpful website http://www.raccoonfacts.net/

Native American Folk Tale
Ever wonder how raccoon got his mask? The Seneca tribe tells the following story;
A long time ago, Raccoon had no mask. It was the coldest winter ever. Raccoon had to follow people around and steal food. One night, my people lit a fire to keep them warm. It was a cold night. The fire had gone out. Raccoon quietly crept up to the longhouse. Raccoon put his nose down to sniff out the food. His nose fell on the hot ashes of the fire, which had burned out only recently. It stung horribly, and Raccoon put his nose in the snow to cool it down. Now the ashes are stuck to Raccoons face forever. The moral of the story is not to steal from people, for there are consequences.

Raccoon Medicine
Much of raccoon medicine revolves around their famous mask. Raccoons are able to disguise themselves and sneak around subtly. Do you need to do the same? Raccoon medicine can teach you how to become dexterous in the masks you wear. The raccoon holds the knowledge of how to change our faces. Raccoon holds the knowledge of transformation through masks and disguise. This knowledge can be applied to religious and ritual practices or within normal everyday life. Do you need to present a different face to people for greater success? Are you hiding your true self? Are others hiding their true self? Raccoon can help you find the answers.

Raccoon also encourages us to use this skills to benefit those less fortunate than us. Raccoon is like the good Samaritan or Robin Hood. Ensure that you are using your versatile skills for the greater good.

If a raccoon has shown up, you may see its influence for an extended time. If you are trying to make changes or endeavoring to hide changes you are making from others until you are in a better position, plan on using about a 20-week cycle. You will find it more effective.

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