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The raccoon is one of the most easily recognized wild mammals in North America, with its grayish-brown fur, black mask-like markings around its face, and dark rings around its tail. The territory of the raccoon extends over most of the United States and into southern Canada.
One of the reasons for the raccoon’s success is its adaptability to different environments (forests, streams, towns, cities, etc.) Another important factor is the variety of food it eats. It eats crayfish, frogs, snakes, mollusks, mice, shrews, insects, earthworms, turtle eggs, bird eggs (even young birds), berries, nuts, and grains when they are available.
Raccoons prefer their food moist and will often “wash” it in water before eating. They also have clever little hands that they use to handle their food.
Raccoons eat more during the fall in order to develop an inch-thick (2.5 cm) layer of fat on their body. This fatty layer helps sustain them during the winter. They do not hibernate but hole up and sleep for several days in bad weather. The raccoon’s fur thins out during the spring and summer.
The mating season for the raccoon is late February or March, and the gestation period is about 60 days. Raccoons have litters of four to seven kits. The young kits remain in their den for eight to ten weeks, feeding on their mother’s milk. Afterward, they join their mother on her nightly hunting excursions. They learn how to hunt and the ways of survival. They stay with their mother through the coming winter and leave in the spring.
Raccoons can be viewed as pests when they raid garbage cans, farmers’ fields, or chicken houses in the middle of the night. They have long been hunted for their fur. Early settlers even used “coonskins” as currency, and Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, and Johnny Appleseed were famous for their coonskin caps.
Carnivora • Procyonidae • Procyon lotor
Weight: 10–25 pounds (4.5–11 kg)
Length: 16–24 inches (40–60 cm), tail 8–16 inches (20–40 cm)
Life Span: 10 years
Special Design Feature: The raccoon can successfully adapt to different environments and also a variety of food sources.
Did You Know? The raccoon does not wash its food to get it clean but rather they prefer their food moist.