Raccoons are sometimes called the masked animals because of the black fur near their eyes which resembles a bandit’s mask. Their fur is usually of the colors white, black, grey and brown. They can be found in major parts of North America and Europe. Their native habitats are deciduous and mixed forests.
They have five long fingers on each limb which help them in easily opening latches, boxes, jars, open trash cans and turn knobs. There prints have great resemblance to human baby’s handprints. Raccoon’s tracks are found mostly on mud near water, where they usually wander in search of food. Their body weight can vary from six to thirty-five pounds and the length of their body can vary from twenty-four to thirty-six inches. Their bushy tail measures up to ten centimeters and has an alternate coloring of white and black. The black circle around their eyes, make them look mischievous and give them an image of a thief. That is substantiated by the fact that they are often sighted in urban areas stealing human garbage or eating other pet animal’s food.
Raccoons are omnivorous and apart from eating nut, berries, corn, mice, human garbage they also eat fish, shellfish, salamanders, egg, bird, frog, insects and amphibians. They have a habit of washing their food before consuming it, especially those who live in captivity. Pet raccoons can also be fed with cat food, as they enjoy it very much. A female raccoon gives birth to four to five offspring at a time. Raccoons mate in January or February and following by birth in April or May. They don’t hibernate in winter, but do become inactive.
Besides rabies, raccoons can also be the carriers of parvovirus, canine distemper, and roundworm. Nearly thirty-eight percent cases of rabies are a result of raccoon bites, in United States. If any unknown raccoon is spotted in the locality at daytime, the local health department should be contacted immediately. Raccoons show no sign of rabies and their body fluids will have the virus if they are infected.
It is illegal to keep raccoons as pet in majority of states of America because of the reason that they are carrier of rabies which could risk human life. In states where they are permitted, special exotic pet permit should be taken. Orphans raccoons which are rescued from the forest have a higher risk of being rabies carriers. They should not only be vaccinated, but also tamed. Raccoons can be bought from special breeders who would have taken care of everything before hand because taming a raccoon is a really tough job. They have really wild instincts which require thorough and strenuous training.
They have a natural tendency to bite, contaminate the food of other animals by excreting in it and are nocturnal. All these weird habits of raccoons require complete dedication of time and hard work. They can be even made to sleep at night. But raccoons held in captivity face health problems like obesity and develop a strange diet. The problem aggravates due to lack exercise. As they are omnivorous, they should be also fed with non-veg. diet, which is difficult for people who are vegetarian. When people make decision of keeping raccoons as pets, they should be ready to keep it forever, because captive raccoons face lots of dangers when released in the wild.