Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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The Raccoon
Nature Bulletin No. 127   October 18, 1947
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation

The raccoon is one of the most intelligent of our forest animals. Related to the bear, he looks and walks like a little bear, flat-footed, with the heels of his four paws touching the ground. His front paws, however, are shaped and used much like a monkey's. With his pointed muzzle and black mask-like patch around each beady eye, he looks like a cunning crafty burglar. And he is.

The Raccoon is almost omnivorous, like the bear. He eats acorns, wild grapes, berries, insects, small mammals and birds. He loves the young green corn in the farmer's field. Best of all, he likes to prowl the shores and wade the shallows of streams and marshes where he catches frogs, small fish, crayfish, snails and mussels. Most favored of these foods is crayfish. Whatever he catches in or near the water, he dips and rinses thoroughly.

Expert swimmers and expert climbers, they live in dens high up in hollow trees not too far from a stream or slough or lake. They usually sleep all day and are active only at night. In autumn they eat greedily to store up fat and then retire to their dens where they become torpid during winter. Raccoons do not truly hibernate.

On warm days they may awaken to peek out, and they mate in January or February, but otherwise they sleep until spring. The young, from 3 to 6 in number, are born in late April or early May and remain with their devoted mother until almost full-grown.

Hunting 'coon at night, with dogs, lantern, ax and rifle, has been a favorite sport since pioneer days. Their coarse thick fur is valuable and their flesh is good to eat. It is a difficult sport. Crafty and cunning, they are fierce fighters if caught or treed. A 10-pound raccoon can whip or drown most dogs, and some old he-coons weigh more than 30 pounds.

The coon-skin cap was the favorite headgear of pioneers like Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln.

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