The raccoon is most distinguishable by the black “mask” of fur around its eyes and the long, bushy tail with anywhere from four to ten black rings on it. Their forepaws resemble slender hands and give the raccoon unusual dexterity. This also gives them excellent tactile sense and enables them to handle prey and pry open shells without too much trouble.
Each of their paws contains five digits. A raccoon’s color tends to be in a range from gray to a reddish brown but lighter colors are not that unusual. Raccoons have a stocky body and their tail makes up 42 to 52 percent of the total length of the animal. Raccoons are also known for washing their food.
In fact, the species name, lotor, means “the washer” in Latin. This is primarily seen in captive raccoons and is thought to simulate the catching of crayfish, a raccoon favorite, in an aquatic environment. A raccoon is an excellent tree climber and is not bothered by drops of 35 or 40 feet.
Raccoons are omnivorous and will eat whatever they can get. In most places, plants make up most of a raccoon’s diet. Raccoons will also eat other vertebrates but generally stick to invertebrates like insects and crayfish. In urban areas, raccoons have adapted to digging through trash to find food.
Raccoons range from Canada, across the United States, and into northern South America. They are very adaptable and live in various types of areas though they prefer woodlands near water. They prefer to den in trees but will use burrows when necessary.
Raccoon predators include mountain lions, bobcats, gray wolves, red foxes, coyotes, fishers, and owls. Humans hunt and trap raccoons.
Raccoons are solitary creatures. The only semi-permanent grouping of raccoons is that of a mother and her young although the male will often stay with the mother for about a month before breeding and until the young are born. During extremely cold weather raccoons will occasionally den with each other but separate when the temperature rises. Raccoons are also nocturnal and spend the day in its den.
Raccoons do not travel much and usually only travel as far as they need to fulfill their food needs. Males will travel more during breeding season as they search for a mate but the female will not go more than half a mile from her nest. In general, raccoons are fairly even tempered and have even been made into pets (though this is not recommended). However, when a raccoon is threatened or attacked it can become quite savage and dangerous.
Birth & Offspring
Raccoons give birth to one litter per year. A litter can have as many as eight young but is generally three or four. Young raccoons are helpless when born and stay with the mother for about a year although they are weaned and hunt on their own after about three months.
Raccoons have excellent hearing and see extremely well in the dark.
Lydia King is a huge animal lover and has always been fascinated with learning about the animal kingdom. She enjoys writing about anything animal related from scientific information about rare species to animal references in pop culture.