Northern Racoon Fact File
The northern raccoon is highly variable in coloration owing to their wide range across America. Their body is covered with thick fur which may be pale grey to black. On the face they have a mask like pattern of black fur around the eyes. Above this and around the nose is white fur. Extending from the muzzle are a number of white whiskers. The nose is colored black.
Their long, bushy tail features four to ten rings of black and brown fur. This tail measures between 25 and 35cm (10-14in) long.
Both the hind and rear paws will have five toes.
Across their range the body size is highly variable. Their weight
can be anywhere from 1.8-10.4kg (3.96-22.91lbs). Their body length can be between 40 and 65cm (16-25.5in).
Northern raccoons are omnivorous and this flexible diet has allowed them to become widespread. They feed on plants including fruits, berries and nuts, invertebrates such as crayfish and insects. Animals such as rodents, frogs, fish and their eggs are also consumed.
With the expansion of humans across their range some northern raccoons have begun to feed on trash and other food sources which humans present.
They will also feed on carrion from roadkill.
Wild 5 years
Captive 20 years
— AD —
America is the native home of the northern raccoon. Here they are native to Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and United States.
A number of introduced populations of the northern raccoon exist across Europe and Asia. These can be found in Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Czechia, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Northern raccoons are highly adaptable and this has allowed for their wide range and for them to become established in a number of areas where they are considered an invasive species.
They are reliant on water and are often found along streams and riverbanks. The main populations make their home in hardwood swamps, mangroves, marshes and flood forests. Where food is available they will live around human habitations such as cities and towns.
A den is most often built in a tree though they can inhabit woodchuck burrows. Abandoned caves, mines, building and houses may also be used as a home for the northern raccoon.
Northern raccoons come together only to mate. Males will enlarge their territory during the breeding season to cover that of more females. After mating the male will leave.
Mating season varies across their range. Typically northern populations breed earlier than those in the south.
After a successful mating the female will give birth to three or four young though litters as large as 7 have been recorded. These may have different fathers. The young are called kits. The gestation period is 60-73 days.
The young are born in a den which is lined with leaves. At birth the eyes are closed and the kit has barely any fur. It will be three weeks before the eyes open. The young begin to leave the den by 9 weeks old.
Independence is achieved at 6 months old though some remain with their mother for as long as a year.
Males reach sexual maturity at 2 years old with females maturing at 1 year old.
Northern raccoons are good swimmers and may spend several hours in the water. They are also good at climbing trees.
A group of raccoons is called a nursery.
They can make a number of vocalizations including hisses, whistles, snarls and growls.
Northern raccoons are nocturnal and it is rare to see them awake at night.
In periods of extreme cold the raccoon will rest though their metabolic rate does not decrease. During these periods their weight can drop by as much as 50%.
A group of raccoons will create a community latrine where they all go to deposit their feces.
Predators and Threats
They face predation from cougars, bobcats, coyotes and birds of prey. Young may be preyed upon by snakes.
Humans reduce their population through vehicle strikes, hunting and poisoning. Due to their large range and adaptability to living alongside humans they still have a large population.
Originally the northern raccoon was grouped with the bears. Now they are placed in a separate genus called Procyon which means doglike.
Northern raccoons are highly intelligent and in some studies have been seen to remember solutions to tasks for as many as 3 years.
A male raccoon is called a boar while the female is known as a sow.
The latin name of the raccoon, Lotor means ‘the washer’ and references the way they wash food.
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Timm, R., Cuarón, A.D., Reid, F., Helgen, K. & González-Maya, J.F. 2016. Procyon lotor. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41686A45216638. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T41686A45216638.en. Downloaded on 15 September 2020.
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