Raccoon

Curious by nature, raccoons will examine items carefully by holding them in their paws before eating anything. They will also wash food before consuming it.

Raccoons live in woodland areas and rarely stray far from water. They are more active at night than during the day. Periods of rest are spent in dens in tree hollows or other sheltered places. When on the move, raccoons will readily swim across streams and rivers and climb into trees in search of food. They use their touch-sensitive hands to grab prey and then break it into mouth-sized pieces.

Raccoons have spread into urban areas, where food is readily available, tipping over rubbish bins for leftovers, and raiding gardens. They may also dig for earthworms, being able to hear them moving underground. Raccoons can also carry rabies, and a number of other serious illnesses which can be transmitted to people. Raccoons will normally seek safety by climbing trees and buildings if threatened, and they may also invade houses through roof spaces and chimneys.

The common raccoon is well known for its black “bandit" mask and its tail ringed with black hoops.

Raccoons do not hibernate in warmer parts of their range, although in cooler northern parts they may do so. In fact, they only semi-hibernate, popping out every now and then to feed during breaks in the severest weather. Males are largely solitary but will tolerate the presence of females living in or near their territories. Mating takes place in spring, and young are born a couple of months later. The young stay with their mothers until the following spring.

Distribution: Extends from Canada through the USA and into Central America, as far south as Panama. Introduced to Europe and Asia, with some isolated populations established.

Habitat: Forests and brushland.

Weight: 4 - 9 kg (9 - 20 lb); males are heavier.

Length: 109 - 119 cm (43 - 47 in); about 30 cm (12 in) tall.

Food: Omnivorous, eating mainly invertebrates, plus plant matter and small animals; crayfish, frogs, fish, nuts, seeds, acorns and berries;

Maturity: Females 2 years; males 3 years.

Gestation Period: 54-70 days; typically 65 days.

Breeding: 2-5, averages 4; weaning occurs at 16 weeks.

Lifespan: 2 - 3 years; up to 16 years in captivity.

Status: Common.

Ears

The ears are edged with white fur, and the raccoon’s hearing is acute.

Hindquarters

These are sufficiently strong to allow a raccoon to sit up and support its body weight.

Tail

The tail is long, with alternating dark and white rings down its length.

The hind feet are longer and narrower than the front feet.

OUT OF TROUBLE

A female raccoon rears the young — called kits — on her own, sometimes carrying them by the scruff of the neck.

Crab-eating raccoon

They lives in swamps or by streams across much of South America. Southern Costa Rica is the most northerly extent of the raccoon’s range. This species has much shorter hair and a more slender body than most of its raccoon cousins.

Although they prefer being close to water, crab-eating raccoons also survive in a range of other habitats, including scrubland and even Amazonian rainforest. They search the water for food at night, detecting prey - crabs, crayfish, fish and worms - with their touch-sensitive paws. Raccoons also have excellent night vision, which not only helps them to locate prey but also makes it easier to spot ripe fruits in the dark.

Crab-eating raccoons are smaller and slimmer than common raccoons, because they lack thick, insulating underfur.

A male crab-eating raccoon will occupy a territory that encompasses the home ranges of several females. He will control mating access to all these females until a younger, stronger male arrives to take control of the territory.

Distribution: Costa Rica to northern Argentina; only found east of the Andes.

Habitat: Forests.

Food: Crustaceans, worms, fish, frogs, fruits and seeds.

Size: 45 - 90 cm (18 - 35.5 in); 2 - 12 kg (4.5 - 26.5 lb).

Maturity: 1 year.

Breeding: Single litter of 3 - 4 young born between July and September.

Life span: 5 years.

Status: Common.

Cozumel Island raccoon

Length: unknown; 3 - 4 kg (6.5 - 8.75 lb).

The world's smallest raccoon. It lives solely on Cozumel Island off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, inhabiting the mangrove swamps that fringe the island's coast. The Cozumel Island raccoon is about one-third of the size of the common raccoon of the American mainland. This raccoon is considered endangered because of its small range and the continued coastal development on Cozumel to cater for tourism. Some zoologists think that the Cozumel Island raccoon is not a distinct species, merely an unusual population of common raccoons introduced to the island by humans in prehistoric times.

Guadeloupe raccoon

Another endangered animal, this raccoon lives on the island of Guadeloupe in the French West Indies. Thought to be of a similar size to the common raccoon, the Guadeloupe raccoon has paler fur than its mainland relative. Like other island raccoons, including Procyon maynardi of Nassau in the Bahamas, some zoologists argue that this "species" is merely the remains of an introduced population of common raccoons.

Tres Marias raccoon

It is found on Maria Madre Island and Maria Magdalene Island off the western coast of Mexico. Until recently, these raccoons were thought to be a variety of the common raccoon, rather than a separate species.

Gallery of Raccoon