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Bandits in Your Backyard

Bandits in Your Backyard: Raccoons at Lake of the Ozarks

Adair and baby raccoon

Adair and baby raccoon

Raccoons have been a source of fascination and entertainment for generations of North Americans – being featured across popular media as mischievous, unrepentant little bandits in books, movies, comic strips, and more. This fascination with the furry bandits was shared by the First People, especially the Abenaki tribe of northern New England and southern Quebec. The Abenaki people had myths about a raccoon named Azeban, a lower-level trickster who does many foolish and/or mischievous things.

Raccoons in Missouri
The adult raccoon is a medium-sized mammal that averages 24 to 38 inches in length and can weigh between 14 to 23 pounds or more. Adult male raccoons are called boars. Females are referred to as sows, and theyoung are called kits. In mid-Missouri, our local subspecies of raccoon is procyon lotor hirtus, or the Upper Mississippi Valley raccoon, an exceptionally large raccoon with a thick buff coat.

Large Boar Raccoon

Large Boar Raccoon

 

Physical Features
Raccoons often appear hunched when they walk, due to hind legs that are longer than their front legs. The five toes on their front paws function essentially as fingers, which allow them to grasp and manipulate a variety of objects, including food items, doorknobs, jars, and latches. Raccoons’ most heightened sense is touch. They have very sensitive front paws. This sensitivity increases underwater, so they will examine objects in water when able.

Diet
Raccoons are omnivores, and opportunistic eaters. Their diet is determined by their environment. Common foods include fruits, plants, nuts, berries, insects, rodents, frogs, eggs, and crayfish. Around human habitations, they will often sift through garbage for food.

Habitat and Range
Raccoons live in tree cavities or burrows and emerge at dusk to hunt for food. They have an impressive ability to adapt that has enabled them to move into a wide range of habitats, from mountainous terrains to large cities. Raccoon populations do very well in urban areas, mainly due to a lack of predators and an abundance of available human food. The size of a raccoon’s home range varies depending on the local habitat and food supply. In urban areas, their home range generally spans about one mile. In rural Missouri, their range can extend to as much as 6 miles.

Breeding and Social Structure
Raccoons are nocturnal. They tend to congregate in gender-specific groups, with mating season falling anytime between January and June. They have a 65-day gestation period and give birth to 2-5 kits. The kits stay in the den with their mother until they are 8-10 weeks old, generally emerging between the months of June and August, and staying with their mother until they reach 13-14 months of age.

Fun Facts
– Raccoon is an English word adapted from Powhatan meaning: “animal that scratches with its hands.”
– Raccoons do not hibernate in the winter, but they can sleep in their dens for weeks at a time.
– They are fairly quick, and can run at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour.
– Raccoons are good swimmers, and can stay in the water for several hours.
– The species makes a variety of vocalizations including hisses, whistles, screams, growls and snarls.
– Studies in the 20th century showed that raccoons can remember task solutions up to 3 years.

How to Tell if You Have a Problem (Signs of Raccoon Invasion)

Raccoon Removal

Raccoon Removal

  •  tipped trash cans
  •  raided bird feeders
  •  pilfered gardens
  •  damaged crops
  •  uncapped chimneys
  •  feces and urine odors
  •  noises in walls, attics, and crawl spaces
  • damaged shutters, shingles, and vents
  • raccoon tracks: five long toes and fingers resembling human hands

Health Risks Associated with Raccoons
Disease, infection, and run-ins with cars are generally the primary risks for raccoons. Some of their diseases, including leptospirosis, roundworm, trichinosis and rabies, place people and pets at risk.

If you suspect an infestation of raccoons, don’t hesitate. Call the professionals at Adair’s Animal Nuisance Trapping. Our experienced team will provide solutions to evict your unwanted “guests” and even repair the damage they leave behind.

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