Raccoons (scientific name Procyon lotor) are very common in the forest of the San Bernardino Mountains..  Residents often find them rummaging through garbage cans or eating from pet bowls that have been left outside.  Adults have few natural enemies, but young raccoons can fall prey to many animals including coyotes, bobcats, and owls.
Raccoons are a medium-sized mammal native to North America. The raccoon is the largest of the procyonid family, having a body length of 16 to 28 inches and a body weight of 8 to 20 pounds. Their grayish coats mostly consists of dense underfur which insulates against cold weather. Two of the raccoon’s most distinctive features are its extremely dexterous front paws and its facial mask.
Racoon are also  noted for their intelligence, with studies showing that they are able to remember the solution to tasks for up to three years. Raccoons are nocturnal and  are generalist omnivores, eating just about anything that’s edible, including frogs, fish, lizards, insects, bird eggs, berries, fruits, nuts, mice, and any tasty thing they find in the garbage. Their diet consists of about 40% invertebrates, 33% plant food and 27 percent vertebrates.
Previously, raccoons were believed to be solitary. Evidence is emerging that  raccoons engage in gender-specific social behavior. Related females often share a common area. Unrelated males sometimes live together in groups of three to five to solidify their advantage over  foreign males during the mating season, as well as to ward off predators.  The home range of a raccoon is about 7 acres for a female in areas near humans and up to 20 square miles for males in the wild.
Raccoons have a gestation period of about 65 days. Mothers bear two to five young, known as kits,  in spring. The kits are subsequently raised by their mother until dispersal in late fall. Although captive raccoons have been known to live over 20 years, their average life expectancy in the wild is only 1.8 to 3.1 years. Hunting, as some humans consider raccoons to be pests and their pelts are valued, is a leading cause of  death of raccoons, as is vehicular injury.
There is a tale in the name raccoon.  The word “raccoon” was adopted into English from the native Powhatan term, as used in the Virginia Colony. It was recorded on Captain John Smith’s list of Powhatan words as aroughcun, and on that of William Strachey as arathkone. It has also been identified as a Proto-Algonquian root ahrah-koon-em, meaning “one who rubs, scrubs and scratches with its hands.”
Raccoons possess an uncommonly acute sense of touch.  The hypersensitivity of their  front paws is augmented by a protective thin horny layer which becomes pliable when wet. The five digits of the paws have no webbing between them, which is unusual for a carnivoran. Almost two-thirds of the area responsible for sensory perception in the raccoon’s cerebral cortex is specialized for the interpretation of tactile impulses, more than in any other studied animal. They are able to identify objects before touching them with vibrissae located above their sharp, nonretractable claws. The raccoon’s paws lack an opposable thumb; thus, it does not have the agility of the hands of primates. Raccoons lose some of their tactile perception when subjected to cold for a log period of time.
Raccoons are either color blind or poorly adapted to distinguish color, with the exception of green light. Raccoons have poor long-distance vision.
Raccoons boast an acute sense of smell, allowing it to orient itself well in the dark. Their olfactory sense is also used for  intraspecific communication. Glandular secretions (usually from their anal glands), urine and feces are used for marking. They also have a  broad auditory range, replicating what humans are basically capable of and beyond, being able to pick up on very quiet sounds, such as those produced by earthworms underground.
Raccoons have notable mental capability, much of it keyed into their sense of touch. Ethologist H. B. Davis in 1908 tested raccoons, finding they were able to open 11 of 13 complex locks in fewer than 10 tries and had continued success when the locks were rearranged or turned upside down. Davis believed they were capable of abstract reasoning. He found their learning speed to be equivalent to that of rhesus macaques.
Raccoons are capable of remembering learned tasks for up to three years.
Raccoons can be pests, overturning  trash cans and raiding fruit trees. They are also capable of more expensive damage, such as when they invade an attic to use it as a den.
Raccoons can be adopted by humans as pets and in captivity are longer-lived than in the wild.
Raising baby raccoons takes special training.  Raccoons carry a number of serious diseases that can be passed on to humans or pets, and wildlife rehabbers must use great caution.  Rehabbers also have state and federal permits to take in wild animals.  It’s illegal to possess a wild animal without these permits. Raccoons are liked for their charming faces and comical antics, and reviled for their messy and destructive habits.
Raccoons are opportunistic, taking advantage of any warm, cozy space to make a den. Homeowners can discourage raccoons, and other critters, from moving in by covering openings in structures and securing trashcans.

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