The most distiguishable charateristics of the raccoon are the black mask across its eyes and its bushy black-ringed tail. Paws are slender, and the front and back paws all contain 5 toes. Raccoons can vary in color, and their coats may contain shades of grey, reddish brown, or tan.
Raccoons measure an average of 2-3 feet in length. They weigh between 10 and 30 pounds, depending on which area of the country they live in and what types of food they have access to.
- Raccoons have a highly developed sense of touch. Their front paws are especially sensitive and contain thumbs, which enable the raccoon to pry open food and climb easily.
- Raccoons have well-developed senses of hearing and vision. They are able to see especially well at night.
- Although they usually walk in a slow, shuffling fashion, raccoons can run quickly if necessary to escape danger.
- Raccoons are excellent climbers and are able to easily climb trees in order to get food or escape predators.
- Raccoons can swim quite well if necessary. However, they rarely choose to swim because their fur is not waterproof and will take on extra weight if it gets wet.
Raccoons are omnivores, eating both plant and animal material. They will consume almost anything they can find. They primarily feed on plant material such as fruits and nuts, but will also consume crayfish, insects, rodents, frogs, and bird eggs. Raccoons will also consume trash and other food made available by humans.
Female raccoons generally give birth to one litter per year. Young raccoons are born in May after a 60-73 day gestation. Litter sizes can range from 1 to 8 young, with 3 to 4 being the most common. Young raccoons are blind and completely helpless when they are born. After 18 to 24 days, their eyes and ear canals open. They are weaned and begin to find their own food after 2-3 months of age. Young raccoons usually stay with their mothers for the first year of their lives.
Shelter and Space Needs
Raccoons seem to prefer living in wooded areas near water, using trees or woodchuck burrows for their dens. However, raccoons can also be found in a variety of other habitats, including suburban and urban areas. They utilize these areas by eating food from gardens and garbage cans and denning in attics and garages. Rather than suffering from depleted populations due to habitat loss, raccoons have thrived and taken full advantage of this closer contact with humans.
The life expectancy of a wild raccoon is uncertain, but many experts agree that it probably ranges between 3 and 6 years. Captive raccoons have the ability to live more than 15 years.
Importance to Man
Because of their varied diet, raccoons are an important part of the food chain. They are responsible for maintaining the population size of many smaller prey animals.
- Why are the raccoons at Cosley Zoo always sleeping? They are nocturnal! In nature, raccoons sleep during the day and hunt for food at night.
- Baby raccoons are called kits.
- It's not hard to identify raccoon tracks - their footprints look like human hands.
- The name raccoon comes from the Native American word "arakunem"(ah-rah-KOO-nem), meaning "he who scratches with his hands". This refers to the fact that raccoons are incredibly dexterous with their front paws.