Raccoon

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Raccoon
Procyon lotor Scientific classification:
    Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
    Order: Carnivora
    Family: Procyonidae
    Genus: Procyon
    Species: P. lotor


Raccoons are native to North America. The first person to make a written record about raccoons was Christopher Columbus, after being discovered by members of the expedition.

They have a stocky build and are medium sized mammals, 16 to 40 inches long and weighing 8 to 50 pounds. Minnesota's largest trapped raccoon weighed 36 pounds. The largest wild raccoon on record weighed over 62 pounds. They have a broad head, small but alert black eyes, pointed snout, nose and bushy tail. They have short front legs and large hind quarters. The rounded, erect ears stand about an inch long and are tipped in silvery white. A raccoon is easily recognized by its black mask on a whitish face lending to the nickname "Bandit". The "mask" goes across the raccoon's face from cheek to cheek then around the eyes above the nose. The fur on the mask is a very dark brown color.

They have four to eight dark & light alternating rings on the tail which can measure 8 to 16 inches long which is shorter than the body is long, and ends with the tip of the tail generally dark in color. Its grizzled salt-and-pepper gray to black fur consists of long, moderately coarse, white and black banded guard hairs above, with silvery white highlights, which shed moisture. And short, fine, gray or brownish underfur. The entire coat is almost 90% dense underfur, which insulates against cold weather. The belly is lighter colored.

They have black paws with five finger like toes which are long, thin and flexible giving the raccoon amazing dexterity but lack an opposable thumb and do not have the agility of primates. They also have sensitive hairs located above their sharp, non-retractable claws that help to identify objects before touching them. The front paws are protected by a thin horny layer which becomes pliable when wet. The five digits of the paws have no webbing between them.
Raccoons are very good at grabbing, pulling things apart and holding things. The raccoon is a very good climber and can go down a tree backwards or face first. Their paws make hand-like prints in the mud or snow. The mixture of light and dark colors helps it to camouflage and blend into the forest. When a raccoon emerges from its winter's den in spring, its coat often appears patchy because the animal has rubbed itself on the den walls all winter long. Raccoons shed these winter-weary coats over an extended period each summer. As fall approaches, their pelts thicken and prepare them for the cold months ahead. At the beginning of winter, a raccoon can weigh twice as much as in spring because of fat storage. Their winter coat is thicker and glossier than their summer coat.
Both sexes look alike, but the males are usually 15-20 percent larger than females. Young raccoons less than four months old can be aged by measuring the length of the ear and a hindfoot. Adult raccoons can be aged using dental characteristics to include counting annual growth rings in the roots of canine teeth and distinguishing the degree of tooth wear. Total body weight is a convenient indicator of age but is less reliable. Raccoons have 40 teeth. Can make up to thirteen different sounds, seven are used between the sow and the kits. The males are referred to as boars, females are called sows and the young are called kits.

Diet

A raccoons diet consists of about 40% invertebrates, 33% plant material and 27% vertebrates. Raccoons usually eat their food using their paws, often sitting upright on their haunches.

In spring, Raccoons feed mostly on animals including insects. Crayfish, rodents, mice, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, worms, young waterfowl, upland game make up their diet. They will also eat the shoots and tender buds of many trees as well as the seeds from such plants.

In summer, when a variety of fruits are available, Raccoons feed on fish and amphibians, crayfish, frogs, bird eggs, berries, plums, gooseberries, blackberries, blueberries, dogwood berries, wild cherries, currants, wild grapes, apples and hawthornes nuts, and other plants. Raccoons also will grub about in the mud for crayfish, clams, snails, baby turtles & eggs. Frogs are a staple of the raccoon's summer diet. They have also been known to sit by the water's edge and grasp shallow-swimming fish with their sharp claws and dexterous fingers. They eagerly devour the crunchiest grasshoppers and crickets or the slitheriest of small snakes. Raccoons even eat dead animals, called carrion.
Fall months are very important for the species. Raccoons have to feed intensively to gain fat necessary to live on during winter. They consume corn, grains, beechnuts, acorns, hazelnuts and grapes. The Raccoon accumulates fat around the body including the tailbone.

In urban areas, Raccoons make use of gardens, sweet corn is a favorite food, domestic eggs & poultry and are able to open garbage cans to dine, and coolers to dine on a walleye!

The name, “raccoon,” may have come from the Algonquin Indian word “arukun,” which means “he who scratches with his hands.” The species name "lotor" means washer. Raccoons sample food and other objects with their front paws to examine them. The tactile sensitivity of their paws is increased if this action is performed underwater, since the water softens the horny layer covering the paws. However, the behavior observed in captive raccoons in which they carry their food to water "wash" or dunk it before eating has not been observed as often in the wild. A widely accepted theory is that dousing is a vacuum activity imitating foraging at shores for aquatic foods. Cleaning dirty food does not seem to be a reason for "washing". Nor softening the food and looking for foreign objects on the food - as a captive raccoon will wash every single grape it eats if water is available. Raccoons do not always dunk their food, even when near water, and will not hesitate to eat when water is not nearby. Many theories have been proposed to explain this strange habit, but so far, raccoons are the only ones that are sure why they wash their food.

Raccoons irritate farmers when they raid cornfields and rob the chicken coop. They are especially devastating on an unlatched hen roost killing many chickens and feasting there night after night. In addition, raccoons love to shuffle along the ground in a field, marsh or woodland in spring, looking for nests of ducks, grouse, pheasant, and quail. They may sometimes catch an unlucky hen on her nest, but will always consume any unattended eggs. Their raids can drastically reduce a local population of these game birds, much to the displeasure of hunters. They exhibit insatiable curiosity and an innate tendency toward great mischief once they enter an unoccupied cabin, trailer or tent. They investigate all flour, sugar and snack sacks left on the counters and shelves, open covers of food jars with very dexterous hands, lift the lids off coolers, and uncork bottles with the greatest of ease. Very little escapes their attention and almost nothing is left untouched. Raccoons are accused of causing agricultural damage to gardens, orchards, cornfields, melon patches and chicken yards. In addition, raccoons are sometimes regarded as serious threats to wood duck nesting. Raccoons also love cantaloupes, watermelons and tomatoes.

Feeding unweaned kits with cow milk rather than a kitten replacement milk or a similar product can be dangerous to their health. Sometimes you may be able to find bones of a raccoon in the wild. Raccoon skulls are quite distinctive. Look for both large canine teeth and grinding teeth, caracteristic of omnivores.

Raccoons snare a lot of their meals in the water. These nocturnal foragers use lightning-quick paws to grab crayfish, frogs, and other aquatic creatures. On land, they pluck mice and insects from their hiding places and raid nests for tasty eggs. Raccoons travel and feed generally at night, but are seen sometimes an hour or so before sunset or after sunrise. They roam up to a mile each night in search of food. Sometimes raccoons will climb through tree tops in anticipation of catching a sleeping squirrel or bird or a bird eggs. In old pastures, hayfields or along roadsides, raccoons are noted for raiding nests of pheasants, wild turkeys and other ground nesting birds.

Habitat and Range

The raccoon can be found throughout Minnesota, except in the three northeast counties. Their habitat includes deciduous and mixed forests, wooded or brushy areas along lakes, marshes and streams, woodlands near water. Female raccoons typically live within a home range of 3-5 square miles. Boars tend to roam farther up to 20 square miles. All raccoons will roam farther than normal if food becomes scarce. The shape and size of a raccoon's home range varies depending on age, gender, availibity of food, and habitat, with adults claiming areas more than twice as large as juveniles.

Raccoons depend on vertical structures to climb when they feel threatened. Therefore, they avoid open terrain and areas with high concentrations of beech trees, as beech bark is too smooth to climb. Tree hollows in old oaks or other trees and rock crevices are preferred by raccoons as sleeping, winter and litter dens. If such dens are unavailable or accessing them is inconvenient, raccoons utilize burrows dug by other mammals, dense undergrowth, roadside culverts in urban areas, or tree crotches.

Home ranges of adjacent groups of females sometimes overlap, and are not actively defended outside the mating season, if food supplies are sufficient. Adult males tend to be territorial and their ranges overlap very little. It is assumed that odor marks on prominent spots serve the purpose of establishing home ranges and identifying individuals. Urine and feces left at shared latrines may provide additional information about feeding grounds, since it has been observed that raccoons meet there later for collective eating, sleeping and playing.

Raccoons den in hollow trees, stumps, caves, ground burrows, brush piles, high grass, hollow log, muskrat houses, barns, abandoned woodchuck burrow, and abandoned buildings, dense clumps of cattail, haystacks, or rock crevices. If there is a lot of food nearby, raccoons don’t travel much and have a small territory. They choose several trees inside their home range that they like to sleep in, and use a different tree each day.

Behavior

Raccoons in the northern parts of their range gorge themselves in the summer and fall to store up body fat. They then spend much of the winter asleep in a den. Raccoons remain in partial hibernation during most of the winter. The animals often den together in small groups. One woman found 23 raccoons sharing an abandoned house in Swift County. Some raccoons may winter in wood duck boxes if the entrance hole is large enough to squeeze through. In northern areas this period of inactivity extends for months. Raccoons may lose up to half their fall body weight during winter as they utilize stored body fat.

Raccoon are excellent climbers, runners and swimmers. They usually walk on all fours, but can stand up right to see over tall stumps or grasses. A raccoon usually shuffles along with slow, deliberate steps. Perhaps because of its lumbering walk and the fact that its rear end stands higher than its front quarters, the animal looks rather clumsy. However, it can bound away very quickly to the nearest tree, climbing it with ease. Still, it seldom exceeds 15 mph and so can easily be caught by a dog. Raccoons are also strong, but slow, swimmers and are fond of wading in water up to the midpoint of their body, where they can sit for hours in 50 degree water.

When the population is high and food sources reliable related sows often share a common area, while unrelated boars may live together in groups of up to four to maintain their positions against foreign males during the mating season, and other potential invaders. But raccoons are typically solitary and share a common area, occasionally meet at feeding or resting areas. Since boars show aggressive behavior towards unrelated and related kits, sows will isolate themselves from other raccoons until their kits are big enough to defend themselves.

In a study by H. B. Davis in 1908, raccoons were able to open 11 of 13 complex locks in less than 10 tries and had no problems repeating the action when the locks were rearranged or turned upside down. In a study by B. Pohl in 1992, raccoons were able to instantly differentiate between identical and different symbols three years after a short initial learning phase. Stanislas Dehaene found that raccoons can distinguish boxes containing two or four grapes from those containing three.

Raccoons have an excellent sense of hearing. They also have good eyesight and night vision. However, they have only a fair sense of smell and taste. Their sense of touch is extremely well developed, especially in the soles of their flat, hairless black feet. They are constantly feeling around with their paws. Every glittering stone, every unusual object, every smelly tidbit catches their eye or nose and they will stop to inspect these objects with intense scrutiny.

Raccoons make a variety of sounds. If a dog, coyote or person corners the animal, it will snarl and growl harshly. If suddenly and badly frightened, it will make a rasping scream. During the warmer months, a raccoon will occasionally make a loud, long, tremulous, high-pitched whistle that sounds a bit like the call of a screech owl, though much more harsh in nature. On a quiet, windless night, this call can travel over a mile. Raccoons also "purrrr" or "churrr" loudly when they are content. Their low-pitched purr is used to call their young together. They grunt repeatedly to their kits to warn them of impending danger and sometimes they hiss in a scolding manner. Kits beg for food with a musical "orr-orr-orr", and cry and whimper when hungry or deserted. They will squeal loudly if handled roughly or violently disturbed.

The boars tend to move farther than the sows at night. During the daytime, raccoons that live in swamps or marshes rest in beds located on high ground or in old beaver lodges. Raccoons that live in forests may rest in hollow trees, old leaf nests built by tree squirrels or abandoned nests of large birds during spring and autumn. In agricultural areas they may find haven in old barns and abandoned outbuildings. Sometimes raccoons will seek shelter in rock crevices, burrows or caves. Raccoons use more than one resting area and seldom use the same site two days in a row. The distances between their various resting sites may be a mile or so.

When the snow falls or when temperatures drop to 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, raccoons retire to their winter dens until warmer weather returns. They curl up in a ball or lay on their backs with their front paws covering their eyes. This long period of winter sleep is not a state of true hibernation since raccoons do not experience the near-death reduction in heart rate, body temperature, respiration or metabolism that occurs in true hibernating mammals such as woodchucks. If temperatures reach above freezing and snow is sparce, raccoons may wake up and forage outside for food, as the chipmunks do.

A basic understanding of the raccoons yearly activities will help understand their behavior and when to see them on Deer Trail.

Fall: As the weather gets colder, raccoons will prepare for winter by seeking shelter and consuming extra food to store fat for the winter. As autumn approaches in early October, raccoons heed an inner call to build up fat reserves so they can make it through the cold wintry months ahead. Adults eat more during the autumn than at other times of the year. By late fall, they've generally put on more than an extra inch of fat. Between summer and mid-November, juvenile raccoons may increase their weight more than 120%. This added fat provides them with the energy and insulation they need during their long winter naps.

Winter: As the weather gets colder, raccoons will seek out shelter to escape winter weather. Adverse weather conditions, such as snow, severe cold, or a lack of food may cause raccoons to stay in their dens. Usually by mid October (2010) to early November (2009), the raccoons retire to their dens and are not seen until spring.

Spring: By spring, many raccoons have lost as much as 50% of their total body weight, mostly the fat they put on during autumn. Sick or injured adults, as well as late-born juveniles, often cannot build adequate fat reserves and so often die of starvation before the winter is over. Between the months of April and June, kits are born and the mother will stay with them for up to three days without going outside. At this time of year, raccoons may begin foraging for insect larvae, buds, and other spring foods. And the sow may be seen alone, but seldom with the male after the spring mating which takes place, 2010 occured after May.

Summer: About the middle of June kits will start to regularly accompany their mother on nightly foraging excursions. During the summer July to August the females with kits are not seen around the males, but smaller raccoons perhaps the young from the year before may be seen around the males. On July 7, 2010 a sow and her kits spent the day in a tree near the trail, one of the kits fell out of the tree, letting loose a whole stream of screaches while running away from the rest of the brood, then turned abrutly and ran up an ajoining tree and after a time was quiet.

Reproduction

Raccoon populations consist of a high proportion of young animals, with one-half to three-fourths of fall populations normally composed of animals less than one year old. Some female raccoons will breed and produce litters when they are one year old. Males born the previous spring are called yearlings and generally do not breed until the second year. Raccoons do not form pair bonds. A boar will typically travel far, associate and mate with several sows each spring. Boars have no part in raising young. Only one litter is raised each year.

Raccoons usually mate in a period triggered by increasing daylight, however, there are large regional differences which are not completely explicable by solar conditions. Generally from early March and can extend into June. During the mating season, males roam their home ranges in search of females in an attempt to court them during the 3-4 night period when conception is possible. These encounters will often occur at central meeting places. Copulation, including foreplay, can last over an hour and is repeated over several nights. Weaker males may have the opportunity to mate if the stronger ones cannot mate with all available females. If a female does not become pregnant or if she loses her kits early, she will sometimes become fertile again. When late winter and early spring snows are deep, the raccoons may not be able to mate because it is too difficult to move about in the deep snow. In such cases, they will continue their attempt to breed as late as early summer. The problem with this late breeding is that the young will be smaller than normal as they enter into the fall and winter seasons.

Once a pair of raccoons have successfully mated the sow begins her search for a secure den site in which to bear and raise her young. She generally selects a hollow tree lined with nothing more than the old rotten wood of the cavity itself. She may also use an abandoned beaver lodge, muskrat house, abandoned woodchuck burrow, a cave, old mine, brush pile, rock outcropping, dense clump of cattails, haystack, culvert, storm drain, vacant shed, barn loft, tree stump or hollow log. The female will occupy the den where her litter will be born during the last few days before giving birth.
Gestation can be anywhere from 54 to 70 days (about 2 months) usually 63-65 days, after which a litter of 1 to 9 kits/cubs are born. The litter size varies with habitat, availibitly of feed and the health of the sow. Larger litters are sometimes more common in areas with high mortality rates. While male yearlings usually reach their sexual maturity only after the main mating season, female yearlings can compensate for high mortality rates and may be responsible for about 50% of all young born in a year.

The kits are born blind, deaf and helpless, weighing from 2-3 ounces, and 4 inches total length. The mask and tail rings are represented only by sparsely haired skin against their light fur. Their eyes are closed but they can crawl around in the den. The mother will stay with them for up to three days without going outside after they are born. Kits are moved them about by the nape of the neck, like a cat carries a kitten. The mother's milk nourishes them during their early weeks in the den. The kits grow rapidly once they are born.

14 Days: The mask and tail rings become fully haired.

18-23 Days: The ear canals open, a few days before their eyes open for the first time, but they don't gain accurate sight until much later.

3-4 Weeks: Their eyes will remain open. The kits will remain in the den for approximately two months. During this time the mother will go outside on her own to find food. As the kits grow and develop, they may become noisier and they may be heard moving about inside the den. A passerby may hear chittering noises similar to that of a tree frog or small bird. They are able to stand when they are about four to six weeks old.

6-9 Weeks (2 pounds): The kits coming out of the den. It may take the runt of the litter several days longer than its siblings to gain the strength to leave the den with the rest of the family. Once the kits weigh about 1 kg (2 lbs), they begin to explore outside the den, consuming solid food for the first time after six to nine weeks. After this point, their mother suckles them with decreasing frequency. They are extremely curious and will snoop around and investigate just about anything.

9-12 Weeks (June): The young begin accompanying the mother as she hunts for food. Young raccoons have darker coats than mature raccoons. The mother raccoon is very protective of her young and will attack predators that come too close.

16 weeks: Kits are weaned.

Late Summer - Early Fall: The kits begin to establish their independence and a territory of their own. Sometimes by late fall, the families split up. In other instances, the young "den up" with or near their mother during their first winter. The yearling raccoons then strike off on their own the following spring, when they are 13-14 months old. By then, the sow needs the home den for her next litter of kits that she will produce that year.

Yearling females don't tend to travel very far from where they were born. On the other hand, yearling males may travel up to 5 miles away from their birth den. Adults are no stranger to long treks. As a local population of raccoons grows and the food resources diminish, raccoons typically disperse up to 30 miles away from their birth site. Some have been reported to travel as far as 160 miles or more, though such great distances are rare.

When orphaned, it is possible for kits to be rehabilitated and reintroduced to the wild. However, it is uncertain whether they re-adapt well to life in the wild.

It is not unusual for only half of the young born in one year to survive a full year. After this point, the annual mortality rate drops to between 10 and 30%. Young raccoons are vulnerable to losing their mother and to starvation, particularly in long and cold winters. Raccoons live, on average, after surviving the first year, 5 years in the wild. When conditions are favourable, they have lived up to 16 years. Some have lived more than 20 years in captivity.

Population and Management

The Minnesota DNR estimates that 800,000 to one million raccoons live throughout the state. Each year Minnesota hunters harvest 100,000 to 150,000 raccoons and trappers take another 75,000 to 100,000. When hunting & trapping decline, mortality from other causes increases. Raccoons face a wide variety of diseases and infections. Disease is most prevalent in populations that become too abundant for their habitat. Disease is more likely to occur in residential areas and in parks where hunting and trapping are prohibited than in rural areas where hunters and trappers help reduce overabundance of these animals.

Whenever the price of fur drops, trappers generally put less pressure on raccoons and then their populations soar. The price of fur began dropping in the early 1980's as animal rights activists protested the killing of all animals. Today, demand for fur is at an all-time low in European countries in the face of vocal animal rights activists. As a result, raccoon populations have soared and are causing increased agricultural damage and urban nuisance complaints. The soaring populations have also lead to outbreaks of disease and an ultimate slow death of diseased individuals. More and more raccoons are found dead along roadsides due to night-time vehicle collisions. Still, the demand for the renewable clothing resource provided by the raccoon is on the rise in the United States, Russia and the Orient.

The most frequent natural cause of death in the North American raccoon population is distemper, which can reach epidemic proportions and kill most of a local raccoon population. Unlike rabies and at least a dozen other pathogens carried by raccoons, distemper, an epizootic virus, does not affect humans. It may occur along with a following inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), causing the animal to display rabies-like symptoms.

Raccoons can carry rabies. Among the main symptoms for rabies in raccoons are a generally sickly appearance, impaired mobility, abnormal vocalization, and aggressiveness. There may be no visible signs at all, however, and most individuals do not show the aggressive behavior seen in infected canids. Rabid raccoons will often retire to their dens instead. Since healthy animals, especially nursing mothers, will occasionally forage during the day, daylight activity is not a reliable indicator of illness in raccoons.

Raccoons also suffer from tuberculosis, pneumonia, leptospirosis, listeriosis, tetanus, and tularemia, Balisascaris round worm, hosts for a parasitic nematode that causes trichinosis. Infections caused by other parasitic roundworms, tapeworms and flukes of the intestine and internal organs are generally not lethal to the animal. However, when these worms become extremely abundant in the animal, they can cause health complications. Raccoons are also plagued with external parasites such as lice, ticks and fleas.

Being large, night-dwelling mammals that are very agile tree climbers, raccoons have few natural enemies such as wolves and cougars. Kits and unwary young, however, sometime fall prey to foxes, coyotes, bobcats, great horned owls, bald eagles, fox, lynx and domestic dogs. These ring-tailed masked mammals tend to be mild mannered and will often run before danger approaches rather than fight. The adult raccoon's dense fur, powerful muscles and mouth full of sharp teeth aid it greatly when it comes to a fight. Pound for pound most adult raccoons can beat and sometimes kill an attacking dog twice its weight. When pursued by a dog, person or another predator, a raccoon makes clever dodges as it runs, and obscures its trail by running to the nearest stream. Then it hightails it to the nearest tree where it can remain clinging to the trunk all day without any apparent problem of withstanding its own weight or in losing strength in its limbs.

Many raccoons are hit along the roadsides during spring when they first emerge from their winter dens and are still a little drowsy. Also in the summer when the sows are with their unwary kits, entire families of raccoons are prone to being hit by motor vehicles.

Tracking & Trailing
A raccoon's front paws leave prints that look like tiny hands. The 2-1/4 to 3-inch long paws are very agile and can easily turn and manipulate objects. The hind paws range in size from about 3-1/8 to 3-3/4 inches long. All paws have five toes, each bearing a short, curved, non-retractable claw. A raccoon makes a characteristic track along muddy shorelines. Its track consists of paired front and hind paw prints, with the left hind paw placed next to the right front paw as it lumbers along.

If you are near a waterway, look for piles of crayfish parts and clamshells. These telltale signs are good indications that a raccoon (or an otter) has been in the area. Since raccoons do not cover their droppings and because they tend to use the same latrine night after night you may find small piles of scat on rocks, logs, stumps or bases of hollow trees. Raccoon latrines are often found in piles outside their den trees. Their droppings are long and granular, often containing signs of what they have recently eaten, from crayfish to grape skins and seeds.

Individuals interested in managing their lands for raccoons can focus on restoring habitats along streams and rivers and preserving large den trees.

Historically, Native American tribes not only used the fur for winter clothing, but also used the tails for ornament. While primarily hunted for their fur, raccoons were also a source of food for Native Americans and Americans and barbecued raccoon was a traditional food on American farms. It was often a festive meal. Raccoon was eaten by American slaves at Christmas, but it was not necessarily a dish of the poor or rural. In San Francisco's The Golden Era of December 21, 1856, raccoon is among the specialties advertised for the holiday, and US President Calvin Coolidge's pet raccoon, Rebecca was originally sent to be served at the White House Thanksgiving Dinner. The first edition of The Joy of Cooking, released in 1931, contained a recipe for preparing raccoon.

Thousands of raccoons are still eaten each year in the United States. Although the Delafield, Wisconsin, Coon Feed has been an annual event since 1928, its culinary use is mainly identified with certain regions of the American South like Arkansas where the Gillett Coon Supper is an important political event.

Raccoons provide a good source of protein. Some folks say raccoon meat tastes similar to lamb, but with a higher fat content. Small raccoons are the best tasting, since large boars tend to be very gamey in flavor. The scent glands under the legs and along the spine near the rump as well as all external fat should be carefully trimmed away prior to cooking because these contribute to gaminess. Since raccoons can carry nematode worms that cause trichinosis in people, the meat must be thoroughly cooked.

Since the late 18th century, various types of scent hounds which are able to tree animals have been bred in the United States. In many parts of the United States, raccoon hunting is still done at night with dogs, usually breeds of coonhounds. The dogs track the raccoon until it seeks refuge, usually in a tree, where it is either harvested or left for future hunts. Hunters can tell the progress of tracking by the type of bark emitted by the dogs; a unique bark indicates that the raccoon has been "treed".

Trappers also take many raccoons because they have rich and valuable pelts. Raccoon fur is extremely durable and makes high quality fur coats, collars, hood trims and hats. Clipped and dyed fur produces a luxurious product. Unlike synthetic fibers, such as polyester, fur is a naturally-renewable form of warm clothing.

Raccoons have played an important part in our continent's fashion and economic arenas long before the arrival of European settlers. A chief of the Powhatan, an early Native American tribe near Fort James of the Virginia Colony, presented Captain John Smith with a luxurious coonskin robe in the early 1600s. By the time of the American Revolution, the famous coonskin cap was being worn by Daniel Boone and many other frontiersmen, with the tail hanging rakishly to one side. During the European settlement of the Mississippi River Valley, coonskins were often used in place of money.

In the 1920s, college-aged boys wore raccoon "automobile" coats which were all the rage at that time. This drove the price of raccoon pelts through the roof. Attempts to breed raccoons in fur farms in the 1920s and 1930s in North America and Europe turned out not to be profitable, and farming was abandoned after prices for long-haired pelts dropped in the 1940s. In the 1950s, raccoon pelt prices peaked again when Walt Disney's Davy Crockett brought coonskin caps into popularity again. In 1987, the raccoon was identified as the most important wild furbearer in North America in terms of revenue.

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