Monday

Mammal Monday - Texas Outlaw

Probably the most ubiquitous of our larger mammals, this masked bandit is a mainstay of suburban backyard as well as urban downtowns. In this week's Mammal Monday our Editorial Intern, Landry Allred, extols the virtues of our native outlaw.

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© Mark Dietz. | #InTheWildHood  

These furry bandits are known for their black fur around their eyes resembling a robber’s mask. However, raccoons are much more fascinating than we make them out to be.

Raccoons are highly adaptable and can live in wooded areas near waterways, as well as urban spaces. They are common throughout Texas with about 22 subspecies in the world. Despite the common idea that they are similar to rodents, they are actually more closely related to bears.

The word “raccoon” originated from the Algonquian Indian word arakun (arakunem), meaning “he scratches with his hands.” In the 1700s, American settlers dropped the first vowel and the name “raccoon” was born.

Seen as curious critters, they are quite intelligent and adaptable.

When near water, raccoons appear to be washing their hands and washing food for consumption. This is a common misconception; they are actually moistening their hands and food to heighten their sense of touch. Raccoons are very tactile animals and have dexterous hands, making them agile climbers and strong swimmers. When they douse their hands and food in water, it enhances their touch receptors and their understanding of what they’re about to consume. They couldn’t care less about hygiene.

Another myth surrounding raccoons is that they are only nocturnal. While they are more active at night, and have excellent night vision to aid them, they can and will make daytime appearances if need be.

© James Eggers | #InTheWildHood

Raccoons may appear dangerous when they bare their teeth, but raccoons will mainly attack only if they feel threatened. Raccoons are known to carry bacteria and diseases such as rabies, which makes humans wary of them. While they are at higher risk for rabies than many other mammals, there has only been one documented case in the U.S. where someone has died from a raccoon with rabies.

These bandits can actually be fairly helpful, as they help with soil turnover, pollination and cleaning garbage and dead animals off of the streets. However, many people will still not want these visitors at their homes, so it is a best practice to clean up after feeding your pets outside and keep your garbage secure to prevent raccoons.

To learn more about native Texas wildlife, subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.  For a limited time enjoy three months of digital access to 600+ articles and our expanded 2020 Summer issue - all for only $1.99!

2 comments:

  1. I caught one in town, outside my bedroom window, in a live trap. I catch plenty of opossum's, and release them (safely) in the country. This Raccoon wanted nothing to do with being locked up, and with the growling, snapping at me, it didn't take long, to move him to his new place. Once I opened the trap, he was gone! No good bye, Thank you, nothing-but peace & quiet.

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  2. Along the banks of the Brazos River, where I homesteaded a couple of acres, I was awakened one night by a scratching sound. Rifle lowered, I went out on the wrap-around porch and found a mother raccoon and her three kits. Explaining to her about the inconvenience of this disturbance, she and two kits left by climbing down the 10' high chain link fence enclosing the area below the raised house, but the runt of the litter cowered under a lawn chair. It took quite a while of being yelled at by momma below before the littlest one made the decision to join her. Once down on the ground, mamma continued to yell all the way to the edge and down the slope to the river. I'm still convinced that the other two siblings were echoing her just out of pure embarrassment.

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