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    Raccoon/Description/Raccoon Behavior/ Raccoon Diet/ Reproduction/Habitat of Raccoon / How Long do Raccoons Live /Three species of raccoons/



    Raccoon, also called common raccoon or North American raccoon, is a mammal, endemic to North America. They are belonging to procyonidae family and the scientific name is Procyon lotor. Raccoon is the largest member in family procyonidae. The word raccoon is taken from the Algonquian language of the Powhatan people, who lived in the north Atlantic coastal plain region from North Carolina to Canada. In that language, the word raccoon means “the animal with ability to scratches with hands”. The genus name of raccoon is derived from the Greek word, meaning “before the dog”. 

    Three species of raccoons are found in the world. In the past, some raccoons like Guadeloupe raccoon (P.minor), Barbados raccoon (P. gloveralleni), Tres Marias raccoon (P. Insularis) and Nassau raccoon (P. Maynardi) were considered as separate species but now they are considred as subspecies of common raccoon.   

    The three species of raccoons are as follow: 

    • Common raccoon or northern raccoon (Procyon lotor) 

    • Pygmy raccoon or Cozumel raccoon (Procyon pygmaeus) 

    • Southern raccoon or crab-eating raccoon (Procyon. Cancrivorus)

    Description of Raccoon 


    Raccoon is a medium-sized nocturnal mammal. Their body is covered with greyish-brown stiff fur. The most distinctive physical feature of raccoon is the black “mask”. They have large black patches around the eyes that seems to be a “bandit’s mask”. The black patches around their eyes helps to reduce glare and also helps to enhance their night vision. Their weight is depended on the species, habitat, age and also availability of food. The average length of the body without tail is around 40cm to 70cm and the length of their tail is about 20cm to 25cm long and has 4 to 10 black rings on it. Their average weight is 5kg to 12kg. Male raccoon is larger than female. Their rounded ears have white border. On their eyes and nose have white patches. Their guard hairs shed moisture and 90% of their coat is underfur which will be 2cm to 3cm long and dense and protect the animal from cold weather.  

    Raccoons are nocturnal animals and spend the daytime by sleeping. They don't get hurt when they fall from a height of about 35 to 40 feet. Raccoons are the carrier of the rabies virus in the US. 

    Raccoon has very well night vision. In the dark, their eyes glow in red because the presence of effective layer, called tapetum lucidum behind the retinas of their eyes. The tapetum lucidum layer reflect the light back through the retinas, that's why the pupils of their eyes glow red in the dark. The tapetum lucidum layer helps the raccoons to see well in the dark.  

    Raccoon’s sense of touch is the most important sense. Their front paws have sharp claws in each of the five fingers. Their front paws are highly sensitive because on the claws have vibrissae which allow them to identify the objects without touching them. Their front paws have a thin horny layer that protects their paws. This layer is flexible when wet. Raccoons can stand on their hind legs. They able to hold, grasp and manipulate objects easily, using their forepaws. 

    Raccoons are colorblind or incapable of distinguish colors but are more sensible to green color  

    Raccoon Behavior 

     Raccoons are nocturnal animals. Raccoons like water and as a good swimmer, they can spend several hours in water. Their swimming speed is about 3 miles per hour. In their wild habitat, they select the place close to water so that they can swim and catching insects and fish. As raccoons are quite lazy, they prefer to catch slow fish that can be catch easily without much effort. Their running speed is up to 15 miles per hour.  

    Raccoons keep their body cool by sweating or panting and also getting into water. Raccoons can produce more than 51 different vocal sounds. 

    Raccoon is a very smart and intelligent animal. According to research, they have approximately 438 million neurons in their small brain that make them smart and intelligent mammal. To measure the raccoon's intelligence, the researchers arranged some problem-solving tests, commonly known “Aesop’s Fable test”. The researchers put some marshmallows in a container but the water level was too low for the raccoons to reach the marshmallows. Then the researchers dropped some stones into the water so that the water level comes up. To see this, the raccoons also applied this method to get the marshmallows. They also applied an easiest way to get the marshmallows and that was, the raccoons pushed the container so that the water splits out and they get the marshmallows easily.  

    Raccoons are smarter and more intelligent than dogs. Raccoons performed better at memory tests than dogs. Raccoons can remember much longer than dogs. Melanie was a raccoon who was trained to ride a bicycle, sweep the floor and also dance and clap. But it is difficult to train or tame a raccoon so they are not considered as a pet animal. 

    Raccoon cleans its food into water and rolling it in its paws before eating the food, seems that the food is being cleaned. For this behavior, they are also called “washer bear”, washer rats”.  Common belief used to be that the raccoons clean their food items with water. In 1961, the researchers went to London Zoo to examined this food-washing behavior. They observed that the raccoons washed meat more than plants, but did not wash the dirty muddy earthworms before eating. At first the researchers speculated that the reason of their washing food behavior is the absent of the raccoon’s saliva glands so they wet the food items into the water to add moisture which make the food soft and easy to eat. But at last, the researchers found their answer, that the raccoons behavior enhances the tactile experience associated with eating.  

    Raccoons use their forepaws just like humans. Under their forepaws, have slow adapting nerves which make the paws very sensitive to touch. When the raccoons wet their forepaws with water, the nerves responsiveness increases that help them to recognize whether the food is edible or not. 

    In early 1900s, a significant series of behavioral studies on the raccoon’s intelligence and cognitive skills were conducted. In 1908, the ethologist H.B.Davis had studied the skills of raccoons in three years. In each experiment, H.B.Davis kept a piece of food in a box and the raccoons had to figure out how to operate the device, which was attached to the door of the box, to get the food. H.B.Davis used multiple locks to make the experiment harder. The raccoons learned to open 11 to 13 lock types and most of the raccoons opened the locks in less than 10 tries. They also reversed the actions and memorized the order. 

    Raccoon Diet 


    Raccoons are omnivorous animals so they eat both meat as well as plant materials. They eat different types of food such as plant materials, vertebrates and also invertebrates. Raccoons consume whatever readily available. Their diet mainly consists of invertebrates and plants. Their diet depends on where they 
    live and also on the season. Raccoons have forty sharp teeth including molars, incisors and canine, which help them to tear plants and meat. Raccoons are smart and intelligent and opportunistic scavengers. Their common food items are insects, snakes, Cray fish, frogs, toads, mice squirrels as well as fruits, seeds, nuts, berries etc. 

    Raccoons like to eat eggs so they steal eggs from the nests of the birds. They also hunt nestlings. Raccoons hunt fish for their food. As they prefer to live near the water, they regularly catch fish to eat; especially mollusks and Crayfish are their most favorite. 

    The raccoons living in cities, are found near trashcans, gardens to find their food and so the raccoons are also called “Trash panda”. 

     Where Do Pandas Live 

    In captivity, the raccoons are given mix of fish, eggs, insects, poultry, fresh fruits, vegetables and also dog food. Some food items are very harmful for raccoons including garlic, onion, chocolates etc.  

    Generally, raccoons do not hunt domestic animals like cats or dogs but when they do not get other foods, they can attack kittens or pups. They also prey chickens and rabbits. When raccoons attack dog or cat, first they scratch the prey’s eyes with their sharp claws and continuously bite and scratch the prey with an amazing speed. Their teeth and claws penetrate the prey’s chest wall, causing the lungs to collapse. Raccoons also penetrate the abdomen of the prey. Raccoons have a habit to piercing the prey’s urethra so the urine accumulates under the prey’s skin, causing scalding and kidney failure. 

    In spring and early summer, raccoons eat mainly insects, fruits, acorns, walnuts, worms because these rich-calorie food items build up their fat that needed for winter season. They accumulate a lot of fat in their tail because they wrap up their bushy tail around their body to keep the body warm. In winter, raccoon’s body weight decreases up to 50% and this time periods, they hibernate called torpor in their dens. The raccoons living in warmer areas, do not hibernate. 

    Raccoon Reproduction 


    Raccoons, especially males are polygamous but the females are monogamous. Raccoons are found in different regions so their mating season will be different. Generally, the breeding season of raccoons occurs from January to March. During the mating season, the male raccoons roam around their territories to find female mates. Their copulation can last more than one hour and can be repeated for a few nights. 

    After 63 to 65 days of gestation period, female raccoon gives birth two to five kits in between April to July (southern raccoons) or January to March (northern raccoons). The blind and deaf newborn kits are weighing 60gm to 75gm and length is around 10cm. After 18 to 23 days of birth, their ear canals open and when they are 21 days old, the kits first open their eyes. The kits produce sounds like cry or chirps. Newborn kits are completely dependent on their mother milk and when they reach 7 to 10 weeks of age, they wean. The kits and mother make a group, called nursery. When the kits reach 6 to 9 weeks of age, they roam around the den and start to eat solid food. When the young are 8 to 12 months of age, they become fully dependent. The male young move up to 20km away from the home range but the female young stay near to their mother. 

    Their common enemies are domestic dogs, coyotes, mountain lions and bobcats but their enormous size and strong defenses sometimes enable raccoons to resist these predators.

    Mountain Lion  

    Habitat of Raccoon 


    Raccoons are found throughout North America. They live from Canada to Panama. Raccoons can be found in several countries of Europe and Asia. Outside North America, the largest raccoon population has been observed of all the countries bordering Germany. Raccoons are also found in northern France, Italy, Japan. 

    Raccoons can live in different habitats. As raccoons are highly adaptable, they can live in cold grasslands as well as tropical areas. Raccoons build their dens in caves, tree hollows, rock crevices, mines, barns, old dilapidated houses as well as burrows of other animals. Raccoons prefer to live or build den near the water bodies, where they can hunt amphibians, fish, snails or other invertebrates. The raccoons also prefer to live in farmland, woodlands, lowland forests, marshes, mixed forests and also urban areas.  

    In suburbs and small town, raccoons are also seen in the gardens to eat fruits or insects. They are also found near the garbage or dustbin to eat leftovers. In these areas, raccoons also make their dens to sleep including garages, tree hollows, attics, abandoned houses. The three species of raccoons are now in a state of high concern. IN 1996, IUCN classified the Guadeloupean, Bahamian and Marius raccoons as endangered.  

    How Long do Raccoons Live 

    Common Raccoons (Procyon lotor) can live 2 to 3 years in the wild and in captivity, their lifespan can be 20 years. 

    South American raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus) or Crab-eating raccoon can live up 14 to 19 years. 

    The Cozumel raccoon (Procyon pygmaeus) can live 13 to 16 years. 

    Now the three species are considered critically endangered according to the IUCN. 



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