Although allied to the Bear family, this animal possesses much in common with the fox, in regards to its general disposition and character. It has the same slyness and cunning, the same stealthy tread, besides an additional mischievousness and greed. It is too common to need any description here, being found plentifully throughout nearly the whole United States. The bushy tail, with its dark rings, will be sufficient to identify the animal in any community. Raccoon hunts form the subject of many very exciting and laughable stories, and a "coon chase," to this day is a favorite sport all over the country. The raccoon, or "coon," as he is popularly styled, is generally hunted by moonlight. An experienced dog is usually set on the trail and the fugitive soon seeks refuge in a tree, when its destruction is almost certain. Besides possessing many of the peculiarities of the fox, the "coon" has the additional accomplishment of being a most agile and expert climber, holding so firmly to the limb by its sharp claws as to defy all attempts to shake it off.
The home of the raccoon is generally in a hollow tree; the young are brought forth in May, and are from four to six in number.In captivity this animal makes a very cunning and interesting pet (although this is highly illegal), being easily tamed to follow its master, and when dainties are in view becomes a most adroit pickpocket. Its food is extensive in variety, thus making it quite an easy matter to keep the creature in confinement. Nuts and fruits of all kinds it eagerly devours, as well as bread, cake and potatoes. It manifests no hesitation at a meal of rabbit, rat, squirrel, or bird, and rather likes it for a change, and when he can partake of a dessert of honey or molasses his enjoyment knows no bounds. Frogs, fresh water clams, green corn, and a host of other delicacies come within the range of his diet, and he may sometimes be seen digging from the sand the eggs of the soft-shelled turtle, which he greedily eats.
In cold climates the raccoon lies dormant in the winter, only venturing out on occasional mild days; but in the Southern States he is active throughout the year, prowling about by day and by night in search of his food, inserting his little sharp nose into every corner, and feeling with his slender paws between stones for spiders and bugs of all kinds. He spies the innocent frog with his head just out of the water, and pouncing upon him, he dispatches him without a moment's warning. There seems to be no limits to his greed, for he is always eating and always hungry. The print of the raccoon's paw in the mud or snow is easily recognized, much resembling the impression made by the foot of a babe.
The best season for trapping coon is late in the fall, winter, and early spring, or from and between the months of October and April. During this time the pelts are in excellent condition. Early in the spring when the snow is disappearing, the coons come out of their hiding places to start on their foraging tours; and at this time are particularly susceptible to a tempting bait, and they may be successfully trapped in the following manner:
Take a steel Trap and set it on the edge of some pool, or stream where the coons are known to frequent: let it be an inch or so under the water, and carefully chained to a log.
The bait may consist of a fish, frog, or head of a fowl, scented with Oil of Anise, and suspended over the traps about two feet higher, by the aid of a sapling secured in the ground. In raccoon trapping, the object of this is to induce the animal to jump for it, when he will land with his foot in the trap. Another method is to construct a V shaped pen set the Trap near the entrance, and, fastening the bait in the angle, cover the Trap loosely with leaves, and scent the bait as before with the anise. The Trap should be at such a distance from the bait that the animal, in order to reach it, will be obliged to tread upon the pan, which he will be sure to do, his greed overcoming his discretion. Any arrangement whereby the animal will be obliged to tread upon the Trap in order to reach the bait will be successful.
The beaten track of the coons may often be discovered in soft ground, and a trap carefully concealed therein will soon secure its victim. Another method of coon trapping is to set the Trap near the coon tracks, spreading a few drops of anise on the pan and covering the whole with leaves. The coon, attracted by the scent, will feel around in the leaves for the bait, and thus "put his foot in it."