1. A male is called a boar.
You probably didn't know that, like a pig, that a male raccoon is called a boar and a female is called a sow. Little ones aren't called piglets, though; they're called kits.
2. It's black mask may have a purpose.
The raccoon's black mask over its eyes is one of its most distinguishing characteristics. One hypothesis for this marking is that it may help reduce glare and increase its night vision. Think of the black marks that an athlete puts under his or her eyes to reduce glare --- makes sense, right?
3. It doesn't wash its food.
You may have seen that a raccoon often dunks its food underwater before eating, and for many years, people thought that it was washing its food. However, scientists are beginning to learn that this is probably not the case.
Rather, it seems that raccoons have very sensitive paws, and that sensitivity is actually increased underwater. Dunking their food and rolling it around in the water may give them more precise information about what they're going to eat.
4. They don't have close relatives in Iowa.
Trash pandas. Shuffle cats. Raccoons are nicknamed after different animals, and they're often compared to dogs, bears or rodents. However, their nearest relatives are actually coatis, ringtails, kinkajous and olingos, all of which live in Central America.
Raccoons are native to North America, but they were introduced to other places in the 20th century and now are prevalent in Germany, Russia and Japan.
5. Raccoons are tough cookies.
Like cats, raccoons have the ability to land on their feet after falling. In fact, they're so tough, that unless they break a bone, they can survive pretty much any fall. Raccoons have been documented walking away from more than 130-foot falls.
6. They are great climbers.
Raccoons love trees, and they are fantastic at climbing forward or backward. They are even one of the few animals that can climb down a tree head-first.
7. Raccoons aren't picky eaters.
Raccoons are known for their love of food of all kinds. As omnivores, they will eat both plants and animals, and they love grasshoppers, nuts, berries, mice, squirrels and even eggs. They will also survive off of people scraps and will dig through the garbage for food.
8. They love the night.
Raccoons are nocturnal, which means they are awake and active at night. That is why you might not see these adorable creatures very often!
9. Their name is very descriptive.
The word raccoon comes from a Powhatan word meaning "animal that scratches with its hands."
10. They're quite smart.
Raccoons look human-like with their dexterous paws, but they also are problem-solvers like us. A series of studies found that a raccoon can even remember solutions to a task for as long as three years, which is almost their entire wild lifespan.
Clubs, businesses, special events — many things in Iowa have been named after the mythic black squirrel. I grew up in eastern Iowa where black squirrels were a common sight and didn’t really think anything about it until moving to northwest Iowa where black squirrels are much less common. Then, my sister-in-law texted me a Read More »Read More
Mammals are usually the creatures that garner oohs and aahs when people see them on hikes, in their yards or even in zoos and conservation centers. They’re usually furry and cuddly with adorable eyes. (Some are ugly though — read about them here) Iowa has 57 different common mammal species, and some are charismatic while Read More »Read More
I remember when I first heard the word. Our environmental education coordinator was talking about nocturnal animals, and then stated that skunks aren’t always nocturnal but can also be crepuscular. “What?” Yes. Crepuscular. Cre-puss-cue-ler. It means simply that an animal is active at dawn and dusk. It’s not quite diurnal — meaning that it’s active Read More »Read More
“Where is the hedgehog?” or “What is in the cage below the salamanders?” These are two questions we often get at the Dickinson County Nature Center, because what is in the cage below the salamanders in our lower level is an African pygmy hedgehog named Honey. And Honey is usually buried beneath one of her Read More »Read More