- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylom: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Procyoniade
- Genus: Procyon
- Species: Procyon lotor
- Common name: Raccoon, northern raccoon.
- Scientific name: Procyon lotor
- Raccoon’s bodies are covered in a thick gray coat. They have an undercoat that accounts for 90% of its entire coat and insulates them from cold weather.
- Their distinctive features are their facial mask and front paws. It is believed that the facial mask may reduce glare and enhance night vision.
- Raccoons have short legs relative to their torso so they are unable to run fast or jump. They can reach speeds of 10 to 15 mph or 16 to 24 k/h over a short distance.
Distribution and Habitat
- The raccoon is a mammal native of North America.
- There are other four subspecies of raccoon found only in Central America and Caribbean islands: Bahamian raccoon, Guadalupe raccoon, Tres Marias raccoon and the extinct Barbados raccoon.
- In the mid 20th century raccoons were introduced to Europe, the Caucasus region and Japan as pets.
- Raccoons have adapted and extended their range from deciduous and mixed forest to coastal marshes and urban areas. They are so adaptable that they may inhabit in tree holes, logs or a house attics.
Size and Weight
- Their body ranges from 16 to 28 in or 40 to 70 cm in length. They weight from 8 to 20 lbs or 3.5 to 9 kg.
- Raccoons are omnivorous. They feed on frogs, bird eggs, insects and snakes. Their diet consists of 40% invertebrates, 33% plants and 27% vertebrates.
- They are adaptable and opportunistic eaters and will eat almost anything including garbage.
Relationship with Humans
- Historically Native Americans used their fur for winter coats and their tails as ornaments. They were also a source of food for Native Americans and early settlers.
- Some people keep raccoons as pets which is discouraged by experts because of their unpredictable and aggressive behavior.
- Raccoons were discovered by members of the expedition of Christopher Columbus. Columbus was the first individual to have written about raccoons.
- Raccoons were initially thought to be solitary animals before studies by ethologists Stanley D. Gehrt and Ulf Hohmann. They concluded that raccoons engage in gender specific behavior.
- Related females share a common area. Unrelated males live together in groups of up to 4 to defend themselves against aggressors and to have a ground during mating season.
- Raccoons mate between late January to mid-March. Gestation period is about 65 days. Baby raccoons are called “kits” and are born in the spring in litters of 2 to 5. Kits stay with their mothers until late fall.
- Young raccoons spend their first few months in a nest in a tree hole.
- Mothers isolate themselves with their kits to protect them against aggressive males.
- Their average life expectancy in the wild is from 2 to 3 years. In captivity they can live over 20 years.
- Natural predators include bobcats, coyotes and great horned owls.
- Vehicular crashes and hunting are common causes of death.
- Raccoons can swim and stay in the water for several hours
- Raccoons climb trees head first.
- Raccoons are nocturnal animals but can be active during daytime.
- Their most important sense is the sense of touch and rely on it rather than in their sense of sight and smell to find meals.
Resources and further research
Living with the Wildlife – Washington Department of Fisheries and Agriculture