The raccoons are a medium-sized mammals native to North America.
The original habitats of the raccoon are deciduous and mixed forests, but due to their adaptability they have extended their range to mountainous areas, coastal marshes, and urban areas, where some homeowners consider them to be pests.
Recently, they have emerged in parts of Europe and Japan.
In the wild, a raccoon has a life expectancy of about 2 to 3 years, but in captivity a raccoon can live up to 20 years.
Raccoon averages 61 to 96 centimeters (24 to 38 inches) in length and can weigh between 5.5 and 15.8 kilograms (12 and 35 pounds), depending upon habitat and available food.
The male raccoon, or boar, is slightly larger than the female, also referred to as sow. The young are called kits and a group of raccoons is called a nursery.
The most distinctive feature of the raccoon is the “bandit” like face mask around the eyes of the raccoon. One hypothesis states that the raccoon’s mask of black fur may function to reduce glare and enhance night vision.
Their dense fur is grayish-brown, and the tail has 5 to 7 complete dark rings, alternating with broader brown or gray rings.The tip of the tail is always dark.
Though previously thought to be quite solitary, there is now evidence that the species congregates in gender-specific groups.
The raccoons are nocturnal, mostly foraging and feeding at night and sleep during the day.
Because its hind legs are longer than the front legs, a raccoon often appears hunched when they walk or run.
A raccoon can run at speeds up to 24 km/h (15 mph).
Raccoons are excellent swimmers.They are also great climbers, which allows them to better access food and shelter.
The raccoon’s sense of touch is its most important and specialised sense. They have ‘hyper-sensitive’ front paws which are protected by a thin horny layer which becomes pliable when wet.When able, a raccoon will examine objects in water.
Their front toes can be opened wide, the front paws can be used skillfully to handle food and other objects.But they don’t have opposable thumbs.
Raccoons are highly intelligent and curious animals.
Their superior dexterity has proved no match for combination locks on dumpsters or fastened windows. They will do anything in their power to acquire food of all kinds.
They make their dens in the hollow parts, rock crevices and ground dens.In urban areas, chimneys, attics, and crawl spaces underneath homes are common den sites.
They do not travel far from a comfortable den. They only go as far as their appetite will take them.
The raccoon is an omnivorous and opportunistic eater, with its diet determined heavily by its environment. Common foods include fruits, plants, nuts, berries, insects, rodents, frogs, eggs, and crayfish. In urban environments, the animal often sifts through garbage for food. The majority of its diet consists of invertebrates and plant foods.
A raccoon will rinse its food in water prior to eating it. When there is no water close by, a raccoon will still rub its food to remove debris.
During fall, raccoons stock up on fatty nuts and seeds for the coming winter.
In late fall and early winter, their fur will thicken into a heavy winter coat and they will eat as much as they can find to tide them over during harsh weather.
During the winter months raccoons do not hibernate, however they minimize their activity in order to conserve energy. During this time, an animal can lose up to 50% of its body weight.
The raccoon’s main predators are coyotes, wolves, pumas and bobcats. Large owls and eagles will prey on young raccoons.
Raccoons produce various sounds including hisses, whistles, screams, growls and snarls.
Mating season for raccoons falls generally anytime between January and June.
After a gestation period of about 65 days, one to seven kits are born usually in the spring.
Kits open their eyes around 3 weeks of age, start eating solid food around 7 weeks old, and by 2 months old are traveling alongside their mother.
The young typically stay with their mother through the first winter and part the following spring (when the female is ready to breed again). The cubs are about 10 months old when ready to leave their mother.
The English word “raccoon” is an adaptation of a native Powhatan word meaning “animal that scratches with its hands.”
The raccoon’s scientific name, Procyon lotor is neo-Latin and translates to “before-dog washer.”
Christopher Columbus is the first individual we know of to have written about the species.
A series of studies in the mid-to-late-twentieth century show that a raccoon can remember solutions to tasks for up to 3 years.