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      Nature Report 11/16: Raccoons on the Pond

      It's a balmy day and the masked marauders are out patrolling the ponds edge.

      Raccoons are normally nocturnal, and sport distinctive black masks for their nighttime prowls.

      It is unusual to see a pair of them hunting during the day, but maybe these youngsters just can't wait to venture out and see what they can discover.

      When the two coons converge, one descends the bank and appears to bare its teeth at the other before continuing its quest.

      They are probably siblings and seem to be about a year old.

      They resemble little bears with their determined slouching gait, and like bears and humans they walk flat on the soles of their feet.

      Raccoons are found throughout the United States and can exceed 30 pounds.

      They are omnivorous and will eat nuts, berries, crayfish, bird's eggs or just about anything they can get their paws on.

      Aquatic fare is on today's menu, and with its sensitive forepaws the raccoon pats the shallow water for a frog, fish or other tasty tidbit.

      They have five clawed toes on each foot and their nimble extremities are almost as deft as a monkey's.

      Their name is derived from an Algonquin Indian word, aroughcoune, meaning "he scratches with his hands," and occasionally this coon pauses and does just that.

      He doesn't seem to be catching much, but it's not for lack of effort.

      Actually, he's having fun playing in the muck.

      Maybe these two rascals better take a break and find a hollow to curl up in for an afternoon siesta before emerging for dinner under the cover of darkness.