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Wild Animals/Animal Identification


I live in the countryside of north central Mississippi, on a large tract of uninhabited land (200+ acres bounded by a national forest). This morning, about 7am, a critter walked across my back lot that I can't identify. I estimate it to be 5 - 10 pounds, dark almost auburn fur, pointed nose, long furry (not bushy) tail, rear legs longer than front so it walked with nose down and tail up. Except for the pointed nose and coloration, I first thought it might be a raccoon. Any ideas what this might be?

Dear Michael,

An adult raccoon would weigh more than 5-10 pounds.  But a juvenile might be that small, and could have a case of mange.  This is not all that uncommon in the summer, unfortunately.  As humans (and their dogs) come into closer contact with wildlife, coyotes, foxes, raccoons and other wild animals can contract mange, caused by parasitic mites.

Without seeing the animal, I can't be sure, of course. But that's my best guess.


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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


I'm an evolutionary biologist with a passion for animals. Ask about natural history, behavior, ecology, evolution. PLEASE NOTE:

If you have found an "orphaned" or injured wild animal or bird:
Please don't waste time asking questions on the internet, as the answers may come too late. DO NOT FEED THE ANIMAL, and DO NOT HANDLE IT unless it is in imminent danger. (Many wild "orphans" are not orphans at all!) If you are absolutely sure it is orphaned, keep it warm and quiet, and find a LICENSED WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR HERE. Don't try to raise a baby yourself, or rehabilitate an injured anmal. Many a well-intentioned rescuer will do more harm than good, especially with baby birds and baby rabbits.

Without geographic location, time of day and habitat, I can't help. A clear picture is always best.

It's impossible for me to I.D. an animal call without hearing it myself.

I'm not an expert on comparative strengths of different animals (more complicated than you might think!) nor bite forces.

I refuse to answer "Which of these two animals--X or X--would win in a fight?".

These hypothetical matchups range from impossible (Grizzly Bears and Gorillas don't even occupy the same continent.) to ridiculous (Someone asked me "Who would win a fight between a Great White Shark and a tiger?").

The vast majority of animals--even the fierce and powerful--are not as warlike as Homo sapiens, and it's childish to project our aggressiveness onto them.


I have been the fortunate caregiver to a group of Black-tailed Jackrabbits rescued from the Miami International Airport, and not releasable in this area because they are not native. I also have rehabbed and released Eastern Cottontails, and am in contact with many very experienced wildlife rescuers who regularly handle injured or orphaned rabbits and hares.

House Rabbit Society

Exotic DVM journal

I have a Ph.D. in Biology, with main areas of expertise in evolutionary biology, genetics, botany, and ecology.

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