RACCOONS AND RELATIVES – Procyonidae

RACCOONS AND RELATIVES

RACCOONS AND RELATIVES FACTS

Procyonids (members of the Procyonidae family) range in size from the ringtail, at 2 pounds (1 kilogram), to the northern raccoon, at 35 pounds (16 kilograms). Most have a rounded head. The erect ears may be rounded or pointed. The snout may be short or long. Except for kinkajous, procyonids have long tails with alternating dark and light rings. In the kinkajou, the ringless tail is prehensile, able to grab on to tree branches. Fur coloration ranges from pale yellowish gray (ringtail) to reddish brown (red panda) to grayish black (whitenosed coati [kuh-WAH-tee]). Most have facial markings. Each paw has five toes with short, recurved claws, or claws that curve back. Procyonids are generally plantigrade, walking on the heels and soles of their feet instead of on their toes.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Except for red pandas, procyonids are found throughout Central America (including Costa Rica and Panama), South America (including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela), the United States, Canada, Mexico, Germany, and Russia. Red pandas live in Asia, including China, India, Nepal, and Tibet.

RACCOONS AND RELATIVES HABITAT

Trees) that provide sleeping and resting sites. Some have established residence in farmlands, cities, and suburban areas.

RACCOONS AND RELATIVES DIET

Procyonids are omnivorous, consuming both meat and plant food. However, ringtails prefer animal matter (rodents, insects, and birds), while red pandas eat mainly bamboo leaves. Fruits are the favorite food of kinkajous and olingos.

BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION

Procyonids are adept climbers and usually live in trees. Of all the species, the kinkajou rarely leaves the forest canopy. Groups of kinkajous usually feed together in fruit trees. Some species are solitary, while others live in pairs or in family groups. They are nocturnal (active at night), except for the coatis, which are diurnal (active during the day). Some communicate through vocalizations, including chirps, screams, hisses, and barks. Only the red panda is territorial, claiming an area of land for its own and defending it against intruders.

Most procyonids do not mate for life. Breeding occurs commonly in the spring. In warmer climates, breeding may occur throughout the year. Females give birth to one to seven cubs and raise the cubs by themselves.

PROCYONIDS AND PEOPLE

Procyonids are hunted for their meat and fur. Raccoons and coatis are considered pests for attacking chickens and damaging crops. The northern raccoon is a carrier of rabies, an often deadly disease affecting the central nervous system and transmitted through the raccoon’s saliva.

CONSERVATION STATUS

The IUCN lists the red panda as Endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild, due to habitat loss and fragmentation (division of a habitat into small areas, resulting in insufficient food sources and home range) as a result of forest clearing. They are hunted by humans for their fur and preyed on by domestic dogs. Seven other procyonid species are considered Endangered as well.

Some procyonids prefer forested areas close to streams and rivers where they can fish for food. Many inhabit a mixed coniferous-deciduous forest, with rich vegetation and canopies (uppermost forest layers made up of the spreading branches of