Small Town News


The Naturalist

Mouse River Journal of Towner, North Dakota

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I have noticed a larger raccoon along with two smaller ones feeding on spillage under one of our bird feeders late some evenings. I assume it is mom and the kids out for a meal. Apparently I happened to leave the house recently when they were feeding and I saw two smaller raccoons scramble for cover. One of them skedaddled to a nearby ash tree and proceeded to climb well out of reach. I am not sure where its buddy went.

Raccoons are quite adaptable and opportunistic animals. They generally prefer wooded areas near water, but have discovered that living near humans has its benefits. Raccoons are omniveroous, and feed on everything from insects, crayfish and worms to nuts and berries. And as most everyone knows, they have a particular fondness for fresh sweetcorn. Plus they do not just eat an ear of corn, but add insult to injury by sampling as many cars as they can. Garbage and food left outdoors for pets also makes for a good meal.

During early European settlement raccoons were probably common in the Red River Valley and around Devils Lake but considered scarce in other areas. Bailey in his Mammals of North Dakota noted they were rare in the Turtle Mountains in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Now, of course, they are rather common across our region.

Places for raccoons to den up are quite variable. They may use burrows, brush piles, holes and such in and around both standing and fallen trees. Under or in old buildings also are utilized as denning sites. Raccoons are not true hibernators, and during the winter they may congregate to snooze through the coldest parts of winter.

The breeding season for raccoons runs from around February through March. Following a gestation of around 60 days the females will give birth to a litter of 4-6 kits or cubs. The young will stay with their mothers until being weaned at around 16 weeks. The family group typically splits up in the fall but the young generally will stay nearby throughout their first winter and disperse the following spring.

The home range of raccoons varies between the sexes as well as season, quality of habitat, and the local population size and density. As such, the home range can vary from over 20 square miles to less than 1 square mile. In a suburban area of southern Illinois the home range consisted of between 50 and 90 acres.

Remember that we are near the peak period of the Orionid meteor shower this week. The peak period is the evening of October 21 and 22. We are approaching a new moon, so if skies are clear we may expect to see 20 or so meteors per hour. The best viewing should be after midnight. Look for them to originate in the constellation Orion.

"Get Out and Enjoy!

(Lura is a biology professor at Dakota College and lives at Lake Metigoshe. He may be contacted at


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Original Publication Date: October 22, 2014

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