Raccoons are our cute, cuddly, opportunistic, intelligent neighbors that are distantly related to bears and dogs. Raccoons are also smart, agile mammals that may become aggressive if cornered. Always stay a safe distance from raccoons and leave them space to escape if they feel threatened.
These mammals have some mannerisms of both bears and dogs. They can also stand on their hind legs for a brief time. As with bears, standing upright is a sign of curiosity in raccoons, not aggression. When raccoons are in defensive mode, they stand on all four feet and arch their backs. In this posture, they are faster and can better protect their belly region. The back arching makes them look bigger and may dissuade other animals from attack.
Also like bears, raccoons are opportunistic and will break into tents to steal food. Normally, I'm opposed to profiling, but, as you can tell by the bandito mask, raccoons are thieves. Despite the warning above, the raccoon is one of my favorite animals. The raccoons I have known have been hyper intelligent, although not well behaved.
While raccoons share lots of features with their bear cousin, they also share features with their canine cousins. Raccoons snarl and growl much like dogs when they feel threatened or cornered or when you step too close to their food.
Raccoons are unique, in that they have nimble fingers that can grab, which you already know if you've ever been in a rock throwing contest with one. In addition to using their fingers to throw objects at enemies and other idiots, they use them to grab and to climb. Raccoons often wrap their arms around small trees to move quickly. Raccoons are also great diggers and can tunnel under tents. So, if you ever find yourself in an old-timey movie jail and need to break out, hope this guy or gal is in the cell next to you. He or she can be your accomplice.
Raccoons den in trees, hollows, and burrows, and prefer wooded areas near water, which in North Louisiana is pretty much anywhere. They tend to leave their waste near their dens, marking their territory against other mammals. Raccoons are nocturnes, meaning they are most active at night. Like many mammals, raccoons become less active in the winter, for what little winter we have here, anyway.
In addition to being good climbers, raccoons are also good swimmers and often eat fish, crawfish, and other foods found in creeks, ponds, and rivers. They also eat insects, small mammals, birds, eggs, carrion, and, well, you get the picture. Raccoons are not picky eaters.
Raccoons are susceptible to a strain of rabies, and because many rabies cases nationwide are traced back to raccoons, the animals are often feared. However, this susceptibility does not mean that all of them have the disease. In fact, the LSU Veterinary School traced more rabies cases in Louisiana to skunks, bats, and even foxes than to raccoons.
While North Louisiana raccoons aren’t likely to carry rabies, they are likely to have roundworms (Baylisascaris procyonis) and salmonella. Humans can catch roundworms by ingesting or inhaling where the raccoon has …er…done his business or by putting dirt in their mouths. So, maybe encourage your kids to make imaginary mud pies instead of real ones.
Where to Find North Louisiana Raccoons
Raccoons have adapted to people, and tend to nest in attics as well as trees. You can find raccoons anywhere in North Louisiana. If you step outside at the right time at night, odds are you will even see one in your own yard.