Raccoons (Procyon lotor)
The raccoon (/rəˈkuːn/ or US: /ræˈkuːn/ (About this sound listen), Procyon lotor), sometimes spelled racoon, also known as the common raccoon, North American raccoon, northern raccoon and colloquially as coon, is a medium-sized mammal native to North America. The raccoon is the largest of the procyonid family, having a body length of 40 to 70 cm (16 to 28 in) and a body weight of 3.5 to 9 kg (8 to 20 lb). Its grayish coat mostly consists of dense underfur which insulates it against cold weather. Two of the raccoon’s most distinctive features are its extremely dexterous front paws and its facial mask, which are themes in the mythologies of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Raccoons are noted for their intelligence, with studies showing that they are able to remember the solution to tasks for up to three years. The diet of the omnivorous raccoon, which is usually nocturnal, consists of about 40% invertebrates, 33% plant foods, and 27% vertebrates.
ABOUT THE RACCOON
Bandit-masked raccoons are a familiar sight just about everywhere, because they will eat just about anything. These ubiquitous mammals are found in forests, marshes, prairies, and even in cities. They are adaptable and use their dexterous front paws and long fingers to find and feast on a wide variety of fare.
In the natural world, raccoons snare a lot of their meals in the water. These nocturnal foragers use lightning-quick paws to grab crayfish, frogs, and other aquatic creatures. On land, they pluck mice and insects from their hiding places and raid nests for tasty eggs.
Raccoons also eat fruit and plants—including those grown in human gardens and farms. They will even open garbage cans to dine on the contents.
Raccoons use trails made by other wildlife or humans next to creeks, ravines, ponds, and other water sources. Raccoons often use culverts as a safe way to cross under roads. With a marsh on one side of the road and woods on the other, a culvert becomes their chief route back and forth. Look for raccoon tracks in sand, mud, or soft soil at either end of the culvert.
In developed areas, raccoon travel along fences, next to buildings, and near food sources.
Tracks, Scratch Marks,
and Similar Signs
Look for tracks in sand, mud, or soft soil, also on deck railings, fire escapes, and other surfaces that raccoons use to gain access to structures (Fig. 2). Tracks may appear as smudge marks on the side of a house where a raccoon shimmies up and down a downspout or utility pipe.
Sharp, nonretractable claws and long digits make raccoons good climbers. Like squirrels, raccoons can rotate their hind feet 180 degrees and descend trees headfirst. (Cats’ claws don’t rotate and they have to back down trees.) Look for scratch marks on trees and other structures that raccoons climb.
Look for wear marks, body oil, and hairs on wood and other rough surfaces, particularly around the edges of den entrances. The den’s entrance hole is usually at least 4 inches high and 6 inches wide.
Raccoon droppings are crumbly, flat-ended, and can contain a variety of food items. The length is 3 to 5 inches, but this is usually broken into segments. The diameter is about the size of the end of your little finger.
Raccoons leave droppings on logs, at the base of trees, and on roofs (raccoons defecate before climbing trees and entering structures). Raccoons create toilet areas—inside and outside structures—away from the nesting area. House cats have similar habits.