Raccoon Facts

Raccoon babies are a high maintenance animal to rehabilitate. It is strongly recommended for anyone who finds these animals to get them to a wildlife Rehabilitator. They can carry the rabies virus even as infants, being transmitted to them by adults.

Rehabilitators are licensed to care for raccoons and are required by the U.S. Game and Inland Fisheries to have current pre-exposure Rabies shots and to have the information on file with them. A worming protocol must be implemented as all raccoons are subject to have Baylis Acaris (round worm) which poses a threat to humans especially youngsters.

Raccoons are normally a nocturnal creature, but on occasion will be seen during the day, especially in the spring and summer. These are usually the females looking for food for their youngsters. Please, do not panic if you see a raccoon during the day. Call a rehabilitator, Evelyn’s Wildlife Refuge, or the SPCA wildlife section for advice.

Raccoons like to eat fruit, nuts, vegetables as well as small birds or mammals.

Dogs are the largest threat to a raccoon. It’s always advisable to keep your pets shots current and not let them roam free.

The raccoon is the one animal that has adjusted to urban sprawl, living in urban communities alongside humans. If you find that a raccoon has taken up residence in your attic or chimney, the best and safest way to rid yourself of these creatures is to play loud continuous music and bright lights shining where they den. NEVER under any circumstance attempt to smoke out any creature living in your chimney.

The raccoon is unfairly blamed for all dead birds one sees. The culprit is not the raccoon. It is the domestic cat. The cats are responsible for approximately four million bird deaths annually across America.

A few facts about raccoons. They are a distant cousin to the bear. They have the same gait as the bear. They have 44 very sharp teeth. They usually have one litter per year with five to seven kits. The normal litter is usually five. The life span of a wild ‘coon is approximately ten years. Longer lived in captivity. They do NOT make good pets (also illegal). They den in tree cavities, old squirrel nests, sheds and barns. They do not hibernate but do go into a slight torper. If they have a good fat reserve, they can survive without food for some time.

Opossum Facts:

Opossum is the only living marsupial in North America.

Opossum is highly resistant to disease due to it’s normal low body core temperature. They are fairly resistant to the rabies virus but have been documented to have contracted the rabies virus, although rare.

Opossum do not hang by their tails. An Opossum tail could not support an adult’s weight. Juveniles may hang by their tails while learning to climb but cannot sleep while suspended by their tail. Opossum may use their tail as an aide in climbing and may occasionally use their tail around a branch while climbing to a lower branch.

Within two weeks of conception, an Opossum “Mom” sits upright and vigorously licks, cleans out and prepares her pouch for her young. She will also clean a path to her pouch for her newborn to use.

When young opossum are born, they instinctively move towards their mammas pouch by grabbing on with their front paws and kicking with their back legs.

Mamma Opossum will carry her young on her back while out foraging for food.

The name Opossum was first used by Captain John Smith in 1608. It was adapted from the Native American Algonquin name “apasum”, meaning white animal.

Opossum must have lived during the age of the Dinosaur as opossum fossil remains have been found dating back to over 70 million years ago. Opossum is omnivore and can eat almost anything including bugs, snails, mice and other small animals as well as dog and cat food.

Mature Opossum are usually loners, preferring a solitary lifestyle.

Opossum makes very little noise, if frightened it may make a quiet hissing noise to hopefully scare off predators.

Opossum’s inner hind toe is an opposable thumb which does not have a claw.

Opossum do not have a particular territory but rather stay on the move hunting for food.

Opossum has no natural defense against predators and cannot defend itself very well. If attacked and unable to run, Opossum will collapse and pretend to be dead as most predators will only eat live prey.

Opossum generally beds down in tree hollows going out at night to forage for food.

Wild Rabbits

If you find a rabbit nest:

Pick up the babies, If they feel warm and jumpy, then mother is feeding them. Putting string or twigs of top of the nest and later seeing if they have been disturbed by the mother doesn’t always work, because the female rabbit slips in the side and sometimes does not disturb the twigs or string.

Squirrel Facts:

Patience is the key in re-nesting baby squirrels. The mother squirrel doesn’t like her babies in a box. Try putting the babies at the base of the tree. If mama squirrel is busy making another nest she will not see to her babies for a few hours. Then it’s up to you to check on the babies you have left at the base of the tree. If the babies feel cold, bring them inside and put them on a heating pad (set on low) until they are warm. If a heating pad is not available then put warm water in a baggie, wrap in a towel and put babies on top of that until they are warm. After the babies have warmed up you should put them back at the base of the tree.

Squirrels are usually born in early spring with the average litter being four. If food is abundant, a Mamma Squirrel may have a second litter in mid summer.

A female Squirrel will look for the strongest male to be the Father and will usually not mate with the same male again in hopes of keeping her species strong.

Mating season begins in late winter, when Squirrel is most active. Males chase and court the females and will chase off other males. The average gestation period is 33-35 days for smaller squirrels and 55-60 days for the larger fox and grays.

Babies are born with no fur or teeth and their eyes closed. Their eyes begin to open in four to five weeks.

Squirrels are solitary but will allow others into their den if it is extremely cold. Once the weather warms, the “guests” are encouraged to leave.

During the summer, Squirrel is most active for a few hours after sunrise and then again for a few hours before sunset. They rest during the day and throughout the night rarely leaving their nest after dark.

Squirrel does not hibernate but will stay in his nest if the weather is extreme.

Squirrel’s diet consists of seed, nuts and berries and fruits. Squirrel will chew on small tree branches to clean and sharpen his teeth. Squirrel’s teeth grow continually to compensate for wear.

It is believed that Squirrel communicates with others of his species thru different chirping sounds.

This message is for all of us who spend time living, hiking, camping, backpacking, rafting, fishing and so on…in areas where wild animals make their homes. Please help distribute this message:

IT IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL TO THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF WILD ANIMALS THAT THEY ARE NOT FED BY HUMANS.

This includes bears, squirrels, deer, birds, raccoons, marmots…all wildlife. Rangers, naturalists, biologists and caretakers in virtually every preserve and park in America can attest to animals dying because of being fed by humans. In general, feeding is unhealthy for native wildlife for many reasons, including the following:
Human food does not contain the nutrients that wild animals need
Many animals die of starvation after consuming food packaging
Animals used to being fed become habituated to human-provided food & alter their foraging behavior
Animals fed by humans are drawn into heavy traffic areas seeking handouts, and are killed by vehicles
Birds who are fed cluster unnaturally and are vulnerable to density-dependent diseases
Many animals (including squirrels & marmots) require more moisture than is in the typical human handout; they suffer dehydration, lose fur patches and subsequently die of exposure
As populations of raccoons, skunks & others enlarge unnaturally from being fed, potential for rabies, distemper and other density-dependent diseases increases
Populations of some species fed by humans become unnaturally large, putting undue pressure on less aggressive species (e.g., raccoons, skunks and jays reducing or eliminating local songbird & amphibian populations)
Large predators who become human-food habituated are considered a threat to humans, and are often killed by government agencies as a result of this habituation.
Every year, bears are killed by various government agencies because they have become habituated to humans and human food. This is a direct result of careless humans creating so-called “problem bears”. There is many thousands of dollars in damage annually to vehicles, camping gear and backpacking gear by bears who have learned to associate humans’ possessions with food availability. If you live in wildlife habitat, please secure garbage, pet food and other food sources. When you are picnicking, car camping and backpacking, please use the food storage methods recommended by the local agency (proper methods vary by location & “local bear conditions”). If you are planning to backpack and are not able to use a bear-resistant food container or use locally-recommended food storage methods, please do not go. Remember: “A fed (by humans) bear is a DEAD (by humans) bear!” Other, less controversial animals are also at risk. Deer (and other animals) who approach humans and eat from their hands are not tame; they are bold. Deer have razor-sharp hooves and antlers, and can severely injure or kill a human with a strike. They also suffer health consequences from being fed by humans. Please help native wildlife by allowing them to stay alive and healthy!

Copyright 1996 by Georgia Stigall. Permission to redistribute in its entirety is granted – as long as this copyright statement is included – for the purpose of helping both wildlife and humans.