Saturday, April 2, 2016

Raccoons Are Cute!

Raccoons are cute, curious, nocturnal, interesting, intelligent, and good at learning lessons. Here in Arizona, raccoons live along the riparian waterways and on the outskirts of towns and cities. You won't find them where a permanent source of water is not readily available. A raccoon's most outstanding feature is its front paws. Each paw has five fingers, and raccoons are capable of using their paws in much the same way we use our hands. This makes them adept at opening coolers, back doors, backpacks, or almost anything that promises to contain something edible.

Their appetites are just as flexible. They eat insects, snails, worms, crawfish, frogs, nuts, berries, and a variety of plants, small birds, and mammals. They have even been known to make a meal on garbage, carrion, or birdseed. So be careful about what you leave laying around the back yard that might attract these opportunistic characters. They will take advantage. They have entered homes through pet doors to finish off any leftovers to be found in pet bowls.

If they really like a newly discovered territory, they will make a home close by, perhaps in you woodpile, in your shed, or under your porch. Before you know it there will be a den of cubs or kits, anywhere from three to five of them. Raccoons mate all year round and the average gestation period is about sixty-five days. The youngsters are raised by the mother. In the wild, raccoons are only expected to live for one to three years; however, as pets or in captivity, they can survive for much, much longer. Some have lived for as long as twenty years or more.

Not all raccoons have a black mask like the Proc'yon lotor. There is another breed called Bassarucus astutus. These raccoons have whitish rings around black eyes. The rest of the raccoons face is a plain gray color. That brings me to Dooley. This rambunctious critter is a member of the later breed and a beloved character in the Tales of Topaz the Conjure Cat Books for middle school children. Dooley makes his first appearance in the Mountains of Scarford when he bumps into Topaz. In this tale Topaz is searching for the Wizard's Tomb in Topaz and the Evil Wizard. Dooley, although quite likable, has a few unfavorable characterizes as well. Because of his natures to be curious, he often appears nosy. He's also blunt to the point of rudeness when he feels his patience is being tried. All things considered, Dooley's heart is in the right place and he seeks to do good whenever he has the opportunity.

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