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Posts Tagged ‘common raccoon’

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The raccoon that left this track was probably hunting for frogs in the deep mud puddles that have appeared in the ruts of this well-tending road.

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Sigh.

Another raccoon with mange.

The article suggests that this might be an opossum, but opossums generally don’t get mange.

And the digits on this animal are quite slender and straight, like we would expect from a raccoon. Opossums have curled digits that are quite clunky by comparison.

It is almost identical to this mangy raccoon that was captured in Oklahoma:

Source.

The chupacabra phenomenon is really bizarre, for nearly every one of these animals has turned out to be a dog, a coyote (or coyote hybrid), a fox, or a raccoon that simply has no hair.

When humans see such an animal, the imagination tends to embellish what they eyes are observing. And our ability to tell stories about what we think see means that we can take what are really mundane occurrences and make them quite fanciful.

That these animals are given such wide billing online is really the result of our alienation from the natural world. When people lived closer to nature, mangy foxes and raccoons would be known to nearly everyone, but in our post-industrial societies, most people find out about nature through television and the internet. And both of these media can create a whole new set of mythologies.

In colonial New England, it was accepted biological fact that gray foxes scouted prey for cougars, simply because gray foxes had figured out how to follow cougars as a way of getting access to deer carcasses. People knew that cougars and gray foxes were always found together, so they embellished a story about the foxes helping the cougars hunt.

Now that cougars no longer roam New England (at least officially), hairless canids and raccoons become chupacabras. I am sure that someone will leave comments on this blog telling me why this animal cannot be a raccoon. I still have people telling me that the dead raccoon that was given a Viking funeral off the coast of Long Island (“Montauk Monster”) was some kind of dog. (That’s easy to debunk. No dog has “hands.” When fully-furred, raccoons look fatter  and shorter legged than they are. That’s why the legs look too long on the hairless animals.)

The real problem with these animals is people like to create fantasies and conspiracy theories about them, which take on an almost religious overtone. One cannot question the fantasy or the conspiracy theory.

The animal becomes a totem in a religion without a deity.

 

 

 

 

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strange critter

As I said before, I have not lost my mind.

I also said I was messing with you.

Mea culpa. I was.

It is a raccoon.

However, it’s not the raccoon we in most of North America know. It is a different species.

You mean there are other species of raccoon?

Yes. I’m sure most of you know that there are several species in the Procyonidae family– the coati, the kinkajou, and the ring-tail to name a few.

However, there are actually two other extant species of raccoon in the genus Procyon. One of these is the pygmy or Cozumel Island raccoon (Procyon pygmaeus), which is a unique dwarf species of raccoon. It is currently quite endangered, and it is on the verge of becoming extinct.  Other smaller raccoons native to islands have been thought of as distinct species, but the current move among taxonomists is to consider those animals to be subspecies of the common raccoon (Procyon lotor).

The other species of raccoon, and the one that was in my question yesterday is the crab-eating raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus). This animal is a little bit smaller than the common raccoon, and its range includes Panama and the northern part of South America.  In Panama, it shares its range with the common raccoon, and because of Bergmann’s rule, the subspecies of the common raccoon in Panama may look a bit like a crab-eating raccoon.

The local subspecies of the common raccoon where I live is quite shaggy, even in the summer, and the crab-eating raccoon is rather smooth-haired. It is designed for a tropical climate.

crabeater II

It is often seen eating crabs and other crustaceans near the edges of rivers, which is how it got its name, but like its northern cousin, it is an omnivore. Both of these animals will eat crabs if they can get them.

I’ve always thought that these animals had a poor names. Why don’t we call the common raccoon the northern raccoon and the crab-eating raccoon the southern raccoon? It would be far more accurate, and it would make a little bit more sense.

It should be noted here that common raccoonswere not a northern species.  Even where I live, they were not very common until about ten years ago. (Today, we have a raccoon plague). Their range had always been in the southern parts of North America, but they soon discovered that European man had lots of things that were good for it. We had tons of garbage and farm fields full of food. We also had steeples and chimneys that they could den in. We have definitely been a boon for this species.

We have been so good to the raccoon that its range has expanded well into Canada, including areas where the indigenous people had no word for the species. The Nazis also introduced them to Germany, which was one of their many bad ideas,  and not to be outdone, the Soviets introduced them to Caucasus. This species is currently the most widespread of the Procyonids, as well as the most northerly distributed. It is also the only one you are going to find in Germany or Georgia (both of them).

But from Panama on south, there is another species of raccoon, a gracile and short-haired species that one could easily mistake for our northern species. The reason why I chose to do a trivia post on this species is that I thought someone would bite on it and call it a raccoon.To which I was going to say:

It is a raccoon, but it’s not the same one we have here.

But my readers are onto me and my black arts.

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