Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
Status: Protected in National Parks.
Characteristics: Nocturnal, solitary.
Area: North America.
Offspring: One litter per year.
Predators: Wolf, puma and coyote.
· The name raccoon comes from the Algonquian word “arathcone,” which means “he scratches with his hands.”
· Tests have shown that raccoons are more intelligent than cats but not as smart as monkeys.
· Raccoons’ hands are almost as nimble as monkeys’ hands.
· Some people keep raccoons as pets because of their friendly natures.
· The scientific name “lotor” means “a washer.”
Although the raccoon is classified as a carnivore, it is essentially an omnivore, eating fruit, nuts, eggs and corn as well as small mammals, birds and fish. The list of food a raccoon will eat is long—basically, they will eat anything they can get their hands on. Raccoons are known to be incredibly intelligent and resourceful, able to adapt in almost any environment. Their natural predators are nearly non-existent in most areas of North America, making hunting, road deaths, starvation and disease the most common known causes of death to raccoons. Raccoons build deans in hollow trees, abandoned burrows or rock crevices, but they prefer to be close to water. Although it’s commonly thought that raccoons like to wash their food, what they’re actually doing is tearing their food while feeling for inedible matter—having wet paws increases the raccoon’s sense of touch. Raccoons don’t hibernate, but they sleep for several days on end during the winter and sometimes more than 20 will den together for warmth.
Almost all areas of the United States and Mexico as well as the southern areas of Canada are home to raccoons. Raccoons have personal territories of several miles, often overlapping with other raccoons due to their non-territorial natures.
Mating season is spring and gestation is fairly short—approximately two months. In summer the female gives birth to a litter of one to seven offspring, but the average is three to four. Fiercely protective of her brood, the female will not even let the father near the newborns. The kits are born with their eyes closed, in a den in a hollow tree. Their eyes open at three weeks and they’re weaned by four months. When they’re two to three months old, the mother begins taking them on short trips, teaching them to forage for food and to climb trees. The youngsters remain with their mother in her den throughout the winter, and the following summer, the family members will go their separate ways. Raccoons can live up to 16 years in the wild, but usually don’t live longer than five years. The longest a raccoon has lived in captivity is 20 years and 7 months.