NORTHERN RACCOON – Procyon lotor


Northern raccoon facts: The northern raccoon wears a black “bandit” face mask, has a large rounded head, rounded ears, and a pointed snout. The tan underfur topped with gray to black guard hairs gives it a grizzled appearance. The bushy tail has alternating black and white rings. Five long front toes work like human fingers for catching food and putting it into the mouth. The sensitive skin on the toes helps raccoons distinguish the texture of their food. In the suburbs and cities, raccoons use these toes to pry open trash containers. Raccoons are plantigrade, walking on the soles and heels of their feet. Body length is 18 to 25 inches (50 to 65 centimeters), and the tail measures another 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters). They weigh 10 to 35 pounds (4 to 16 kilograms).

Geographic range: Northern raccoons are found in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Panama, the Netherlands, Russia, and Germany.

Northern raccoon habitat: Raccoons prefer forested areas, especially those near streams and rivers where they can forage for food. Forests provide nuts, berries, and tree hollows for dens. Highly adaptable, raccoons are equally at home in farmlands, cities, and the suburbs, inhabiting barns and attics.

What does northern raccoon eat: Northern raccoons are opportunistic feeders, eating any food that is available. They enjoy fruits, berries, cereal grains, nuts, fish, crayfish, frogs, insects, and bird eggs. They dine on corn in rural areas and have adapted to eating garbage in suburban and urban areas.

Behavior and reproduction: Northern raccoons are solitary, except when mating, raising young, or gathering at human environments, such as garbage pits. They are nocturnal, sometimes spending the day resting on branches high up in trees. Expert climbers, they can descend a tree headfirst. They are also good swimmers. Although they typically walk leisurely, they can run as fast as 15 miles per hour (24 kilometers per hour).

Raccoons mate in late winter, with males having several partners. In the spring, the female gives birth to a litter of one to seven cubs in a tree hollow or abandoned animal burrow (a hole or a tunnel). The mother sometimes carries a newborn by the nape of the neck, the way cats do with kittens. The male does not participate in parenting. In cold climates, raccoons sleep in their dens for days or even months, living off fat reserves from summer and autumn feedings. However, they do not truly hibernate, getting up during warm spells.

Northern raccoons and people: Raccoons are hunted for their meat. Their fur is made into caps and coats. They are considered pests for raiding cornfields, chicken coops, and garbage bins. They carry the rabies virus, which can be passed on to humans through bites.

Conservation status: The northern raccoon is not a threatened species.