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The Masked Bandit of the Night

Jan 08, 2018

Your car headlights reflect off bright red eyes from a hunch-backed form ambling across the road.  The black mask and ringed tail identify it as a raccoon, that curious night-time prowler.

During the night, raccoons search out a variety of food, from fruit and near-ripe sweet corn to wriggling crayfish, worms, frogs, fish, dead animals and even garbage.  The long, sensitive fingers on a raccon's front paws are just right for reaching into tight cracks and hiding places.  There's a popular belief that raccon's always wash their food.  This is not true in all cases.  Raccoons often catch prey in water, but they'll eat food wherever they find it, without washing first.

Raccoons are intelligent and curious.  They can remove lids from garbage cans and figure out how to open tricky latches on storage containers.  Once a raccoon learns how to pick locks, it will remember how to open them the next time.  You raccoons may then learn these techniques by mimicking other raccoons.  As campers and picknickers have learned, it's sometimes impossible to outsmart them.

The masked bandit may be stalking your neighborhood, whether you live in the country, city or suburb.

Ravenous Raccoons

  • Raccoons are valuable members of the ecosystem, functioning as herbivores, carnivores, and prey. They help disperse seeds of the numerous fruits they consume.
  • Raccoons eat both plant and animal matter, including persimmons, grapes, Osage oranges, blackberries, grasses, corn, acorns, pecans, and other nuts, as well as crayfish, clams, fish, snails, a wide range of insects, frogs, snakes, bird eggs, mice, squirrels, rabbits and more.
  • Raccoons prefer timbered habitat near water. They also may be found in urban and suburban areas. Dens are made in hollow trees, in caves, rocky crevices, abandoned woodchuck burrows and many other places. 
  • Raccoons are a valuable fur species.  Their fur is used for coats, collars, muffs, and trimmings.
  • Hunters and trappers may pursue raccoons during furbearer season. In addition, the Wildlife Code of Missouri allows landowners to control raccoons that have become a nuisance. Check Hunting Regulations and Raccoon Control for regulations and control details.

For more on the raccoon, visit MDC’s website.

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Theater in the WILD

Jul 30, 2018

Theater in the Wild: Some of the biggest stars have graced its stage, and swallowed our bugs while singing, but often nature and wildlife have been an inspiring and entertaining part of the show. The Muny opera took shape 100 years ago between two giant oak trees in a natural bowl in Forest Park in St. Louis. Ol' man River Des Peres which runs through it caused early trouble in river city with a flood that washed the orchestra's instruments as far away as Carondelet.

Today, the river runs behind and below the theater offering audiences a chance to view wetland species. The trees surrounding the stage are part of the design for several musicals and are looked after with care. Squirrels, possums or raccoons may appear climbing lighting grids or wandering onto the stage at any moment during a show.

Just as in nature, there are free sets to enjoy the show in the nation's largest, greenest outdoor theater in one of our country's biggest urban parks. Learn more about Forest Park and nature's show in this week's Discover Nature Note.

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