American Raccoon

Wild Status:

Least Concern

Scientific Name:

Procyon lotor

Distribution:

 

The raccoon is native to North America and can be found throughout the United States, except for parts of the Rocky Mountains, and southwestern states like Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. It can also be found in parts of Canada, Mexico and the northern-most regions of South America. During the 20th century, the species was introduced to other parts of the globe, and now has an extensive presence in countries like Germany, Russia, and Japan.

Description:

The raccoon is a medium-sized mammal and is the largest of the procyonid family, which all come from the Americas and includes Coatis and Kinkajous. They have a body length of 40 to 70 cm and a body weight of 5 to 26 kg. Its greyish coat mostly consists of dense underfur which insulates it against cold weather. Three of the raccoon's most distinctive features are its extremely dexterous front paws, its facial mask, and its ringed tail.

It has been extensively hunted for its fur and this continues up to modern day.

The raccoon is also considered a pest species and in many areas of it’s range it suffers from a very bad reputation. Many are also killed in collisions with motor vehicles.

Adaptations:

With urbanisation, raccoons have learnt that rubbish bins outside houses can be a reliable source of food. They have become real nuisances, of which we have first-hand experience, emptying the bins in search of food and spreading rubbish all around. They have earned themselves local nicknames of Trash Panda or simply coons.

Feeding and habits:

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. The majority of its diet consists of invertebrates and plant foods. The diet of the omnivorous raccoon, which is usually nocturnal, consists of about 40% invertebrates, 33% plant foods, and 27% vertebrates.

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.

Breeding and Life Expectancy:

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.

The raccoon has a 65-day gestation period and gives birth to two to five kits, usually in the spring. A mother usually separates from other raccoons to raise her young alone until they leave the family in the Autumn.

More Interesting Facts:

  • The five toes on a raccoon’s front paws are extremely dexterous, functioning essentially as five little fingers which allow it to grasp and manipulate food it finds as well as a variety of other objects, including doorknobs, jars, and latches.

  • A raccoon’s most heightened sense is its sense of touch. It has very sensitive front paws and this sensitivity increases underwater. When able, a raccoon will examine objects in water.

  • Raccoons are noted for their intelligence, with studies showing that they are able to remember the solution to tasks for up to three years.

At the Jungle Zoo:

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