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Is a Raccoon a Rodent?

No, raccoon is not a rodent. A rodent is a gnawing mammal of an order that includes rats, mice, squirrels, hamsters, porcupines, and their relatives, distinguished by strong constantly growing incisors and no canine teeth. Raccoons are members of the Procyonid family, which also includes ringtail cats, coatis of South America, and kinkajous of Central and South America. Taxonomists once placed the animal in the same genus as bears, but later gave raccoons their own genus (Procyon).

Raccoons are omnivores, meaning they will eat both plants and other animals. This includes fruits, berries, nuts, fish, frogs, mussels, crayfish, insects, turtles, mice, rabbits, muskrats and bird eggs. Raccoons usually have one litter per year, which is usually born in late spring or early summer. One litter may contain between three and five young. Raccoons can live as long as 12 years in the wild. They do not hibernate but do become inactive during severe winter weather.

Raccoons prefer to live in forested areas near a water source. Although commonly found in association with water and trees, raccoons can also be found around farmsteads and livestock watering areas. Raccoons typically like to den in hollow trees, ground burrows, brush piles, muskrat houses, barns and abandoned buildings, dense clumps of cattail, haystacks or rock crevices. They are also known to use parts of homes, including chimneys, attics, and hollow areas beneath porches to make dens.

Facts about Raccoons

Raccoons are nocturnal and usually solitary, unless they congregate at man-made food sources such as picnic areas or campgrounds. They prefer brushy, thickly vegetated habitats, but adapt very well to the many artificial ponds, lakes, and wetlands found in the suburbs and housing developments. They can eat almost anything; their dexterous paws can easily open garbage cans, so they can readily take advantage of discarded food.

In the warm desert climate, a raccoon may sleep away the day out in the open, draped over a tree branch.

Raccoons are also incredibly resourceful animals and have become great problem solvers, especially when there is food involved. If you have ever encountered a raccoon on your property, you might have noticed their crafty and clever abilities. However, these skills have also been tested in labs, proving that even in controlled settings, raccoons are truly intelligent and cunning creatures.

The Roles of Raccoons in the Ecosystem

Although raccoons can prove to be a nuisance when they dig through your garbage cans or eat all of your pet’s food, they do in fact hold value when it comes to their contributions to the ecosystem. Raccoons are mostly useful in regards to the food chain on earth, as well as the aquatic food chain. With a diet consisting of insects, crabs, crayfish, lobsters, frogs, rodents, fish, birds, turtle eggs and more, raccoons are useful because they help to control animal populations.

Raccoons are also a source of food for larger animals such as hawks, owls, coyotes and even young snakes. Their positions of predator and prey give raccoons an important role in maintaining the balance of prey populations in the wild. Raccoons also dine on plants, nuts and fruits, which helps to spread seeds, allowing plant populations to grow.

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