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Living OrganismsAnimalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Carnivora / Procyonidae / Procyon / Species

Procyon lotor - Common Raccoon (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)

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INDEX - INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL & REFERENCES

APPEARANCE / MORPHOLOGY

LIFE STAGES / NATURAL DIET / PHYSIOLOGY

BEHAVIOUR

HABITAT & RANGE

CONSERVATION

 

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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

See Procyon page for alternative genus names.

Alternative species names (the second part of the binomial species names): [Genus] annulatus, [Genus] auspicatus, [Genus] brachyurus, [Genus] californicus, [Genus] castaneus, [Genus] crassidens, [Genus] dickeyi, [Genus] elucus, [Genus] excelsus, [Genus] flavidus, [Genus] fusca, [Genus] fuscipes, [Genus] grinnelli, [Genus] gularis, [Genus] hernandezii, [Genus] hirtus, [Genus] hudsonicus, [Genus] incautus, [Genus] inesperatus, [Genus] litoreus, [Genus] marinus, [Genus] maritimus, [Genus] megalodous, [Genus] melanus, [Genus] mexicana, [Genus] nivea, [Genus] obscurus, [Genus] ochraceus, [Genus] pacifica, [Genus] pallidus, [Genus] proteus, [Genus] psora, [Genus] pumilus, [Genus] rufescens, [Genus] shufeldti, [Genus] simus, [Genus] solutus, [Genus] vancouverensis, [Genus] varius, [Genus] vulgaris. (B141)

Some authorities consider the insular species Procyon gloveralleni, Procyon insularis, Procyon minor and Procyon pygmaeus, from the West Indies and Mexico, to be subspecies of Procyon lotor. (B51, B147)

For further information on subspecies see the section below: Species Variation (subspeciation).
  • Arakunem (Algonquin) (B402.1.w1)
  • Arocoun or Aroughcun (Native American, Virginia) (B397.w1)
  • Coon (B402.1.w1, B490.28.w28)
  • E's-see-ban (Cree, Sauteaux) (B397.w1)
  • E's-see-pan (Ojibway) (B397.w1)
  • Hespan (Dutch) (B402.1.w1)
  • Northern raccoon (B490.28.w28)
  • Mach-coon (Cheyenne) (B397.w1)
  • Mapachi (Mexico) (B397.w1)
  • Mapachin (Panama) (B397.w1)
  • Osito lavador (Mexican) (B402.1.w1)
  • Raccoon (B490.28.w28)
  • le Raton (French Canadian) (B397.w1)
  • Raton laveur (French) (B402.1.w1)
  • Rattoon (Native American) (B397.w1)
  • Ringtail (B402.1.w1)
  • Waschbar (German) (B402.1.w1)
  • Way-atch-a (Yankton Sioux) (B397.w1)
  • We-cha (Ogallala Sioux) (B397.w1)

Names for new-borns / juveniles

Kit, cub.
Names for males --
Names for females --

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General Appearance

Adult: A stout, stocky animal, greyish or grey-brown, with a distinctive bushy ringed tail and a black mask outlined with white above a bright black nose.

Newborn: About four inches long (95 mm) and incompletely haired at birth, with closed eyes and ears.

Similar Species

Crab-eating raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus), White-nosed coati (Nasua narica), Ringtail (Bassaricus astutus), Raccoon dog (Nyctereuctes procyonoides).

(V.w59

Sexual Dimorphism --

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References

Species Authors & Referees

Editor: Nicola Blay (V.w59) Referees: Debra Bourne (V.w5), Suzanne I. Boardman (V.w6

ORGANISATIONS

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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Husbandry Information

Notes

  • [Not collated at this time]

Management Techniques

  • --

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.

LENGTH
Adult: 
Raccoons have a total length of about 600 to 1050 mm; excluding the tail, the head and body length is about 415-600mm.
Newborns: 
Neonates are about 95 mm (4.0 inches) long. 

HEIGHT
Adults and sub-adults: The height at the shoulder is 228 to 304 mm (9 - 12 inches).
Juveniles: --

WEIGHT
Adult: 
There is considerable variation in the weight of raccoons, depending on season and sex as well as geographical origin and subspecies. In northern areas a raccoon's bodyweight can double by autumn with 50% loss of bodyweight during the winter; in southern areas weight may be lost in late spring prior to the hot humid summer. Males average about 25% bigger than females. Generally raccoons from northern areas are larger and heavier than those from southern areas. Recorded weights generally vary from about 3.6 to 9.0 kg (7.9 to 19.8 lb) but adult individuals in the Florida Keys may weigh only 1.8 to 2.7 kg while the heaviest recorded male weighed nearly 25 kg.
Newborns: 
Raccoon cubs weigh about 60 to 75 g (2.1 - 2.6 ounces) at birth.

GROWTH RATE Raccoons may reach 196 g after a week and nearly 1 kg by 50 days old; full adult weights are reached only in the second year.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Appearance-Morphology- Measurement and Weight

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Head and Neck

EDITORIAL SUMMARY

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The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.

GENERAL HEAD STRUCTURE:
Adult:
Raccoons have a broad skull and round face with a pointed muzzle and a black mask across the eyes. The ears are pointed with a black basal patch and white hairs on the edge and tip. The whiskers on the muzzle are stiff, white and two to four inches long.
Newborn: --

DENTITION:
Adult:
Raccoons have the dental formula I 3/3, C 1/1, P 4/4, M 2/2. (40 teeth in total). As with other carnivores the canines are sharp and double-edged; the lower canines are larger and wider in males than in females. The heavy cheek teeth are designed for crushing rather than for slicing.
Newborn:
Deciduous incisors start erupting at one month, followed by the deciduous premolars. The permanent incisors start erupting at two months.

EYES:
Adult:
Raccoons have dark round eyes, positioned forward in the head, allowing binocular vision. The eyes are bright and often have a red tint.
Newborn:
The eyes are closed at birth; they open at about three weeks of age.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Appearance-Morphology- Head and Neck

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Legs, Spine and Tracks

EDITORIAL SUMMARY

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The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.

Raccoons have five long toes on each foot, not webbed; the palms and digit pads are dark and hairless while the non-retractable claws are curved and laterally compressed. They may have a plantigrade stance or, at faster speeds, may be semi-plantigrade. Their stride length is 15 to 20 cm (six to 20 inches), mean 35 mm (14 inches). Tracks of the forefeet are about 75 mm (3 inches) long and wide, which hind foot tracks are about 82 to 138 mm (3.25 to 5.4 inches) long, being longer in males than in females. The hind feet can be rotated backwards 180 for climbing down trees forwards.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Appearance-Morphology- Legs, Spine and Tracks 

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Tail

EDITORIAL SUMMARY

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The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.

The raccoon's tail is about 192-406 mm (7.5 to 16 inches) long (average length being longer in males than in females), bushy and cylindrical, with several alternating dark and paler stripes. It is used for balance while climbing and for support while sitting; in winter fat is stored under the skin near the base.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Appearance-Morphology-Tail 

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Skin / Coat / Pelage

EDITORIAL SUMMARY

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The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.

Adult: Raccoons have dense short underfur for insulation, covered by longer guard hairs to shed moisture. Northern animals have denser underfur and longer guard hairs than southern individuals. The back is generally a grizzled grey to black (depending on the number of black- or white-tipped guard hairs), sometimes with a reddish tinge, particularly on the neck and shoulders. The underside is a more uniform grey or brownish grey. The face is white with a black mask across the eyes, and the tail has several dark rings. There is an annual moult, starting in early spring and lasting three months or more; the fur is densest and longest in the winter. 

Adult colour variations: There are regional variations in general colour and patterning (e.g. prairie raccoons tend to be paler than those from eastern areas). Additionally, cinnamon, albino and black (melanistic) individuals occur. 

Newborn/Juvenile: Neonates are incompletely haired; the back is furred by one week, the facial mask by two weeks and the tail by three weeks (although the tail rings are visible on the skin before the fur appears); by seven weeks the coat is fully formed, with adult colouration.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Appearance- Morphology- Skin-Coat-Pelage 

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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.
  • Raccoons are sturdy, stocky, even chubby animals. 
  • They are quite intelligent, and the brain has an enlarged tactile receiving area, with distinct areas corresponding to regions of the forepaws; the forepaw motor area of the brain is also relatively large, although it is only a third the size of the sensory area for the forepaw.
  • Male raccoons have testes which vary in size seasonally; spermatozoa may be absent from the testes for three to four months but are always present in the epididymis. Only two of the accessory glands, prostate and the ampullae are present; Cowper's glands and seminal vesicles are absent. There is little erectile tissue in the penis, most being replaced by a baculum, which curves downward at the tip. Penile spines are present on the glans.
  • Females have three or four pairs of mammary glands [references disagree regarding which is the normal number]. The bursa ovarii nearly completely surrounds the ovary. The weight of the ovaries varies seasonally, being lowest in July and highest in November and April. Corpora lutea are maintained until parturition. The uterine horns are externally joined but internally separate lumina are maintained until close to the cervix. The zonary placenta is deciduate.
  • The raccoon has well developed salivary glands; the gut is unspecialised, with a short intestine and no caecum.
Further information is available within this section on the structure of the brain, male and female reproductive organs, gastro-intestinal system and specialised glands.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Detailed Anatomy Notes 

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Life Stages

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.

BREEDING SEASON: There are geographical variations in the raccoon mating season. In general, the mating season last from about January to March, peaking in February. In the most northerly areas the mating season starts later, in February, and peaks in March, but is prolonged until June. In the southeastern states mating also generally starts relatively late and may continue into the summer, while in Florida it may start as early as December. The mating season may be prolonged in some females that return to oestrus after failing to give birth or after losing a litter soon after parturition. In South Carolina, Florida and Alabama some litters may be born in any month. The raccoon breeding cycle is influenced by photoperiod; if exposed to artificially long daylight hours, raccoons may become ready to breed as much as two to four months early.

OESTRUS/OVULATION: Prior to oestrus , the female's vulva swells and reddens; she becomes receptive to mating about one to two weeks later, for three to six days, and the vulva resumes its normal appearance about three to four weeks after this. There is debate as to whether raccoons are spontaneous or induced ovulators. It appears that in general they are induced ovulators, although spontaneous ovulation has been reported in captivity, possibly only in females able to receive visual, auditory and olfactory stimuli from males. Females which fail to produce a litter, or which lose a litter soon after parturition, may return to oestrus. The oestrus cycle length is about 80 to 140 days.

GESTATION/PREGNANCY: Gestation lasts for about nine weeks (63 days).

PARTURITION/BIRTH: Litters are generally born in April or May, however this varies so that in northern areas such as Minnesota, North Dakota and Manitoba, May is the commonest birth month and litters may be born as late as September. In some southern states such as South Carolina, Alabama and Florida there may be a less defined season and it is possible some births may occur in any month.

NEONATAL/DEVELOPMENT: Raccoons are altricial but relatively well developed at birth. The eyes and ears open at about three weeks old; by the seventh week their eyes are focusing and reacting to movement. By one month the deciduous first, second and third incisors and the canines are in place, while by two months the permanent first incisors have erupted and by 3.5 months all the permanent incisors, canines and the first molars are in place. From a birth weigh of about 60 - 75 g, cubs may reach (based on data from two hand-reared cubs) nearly 200g by one week of age, 455g (1 lb) by 19 days, 681g by 40 days and 908 g (2.0 lb) by 50 days. Raccoons are weaned at about eight to sixteen weeks of age. Once weaned, cubs can gain nearly a kilogram per month and can reach 7.0 kg by their first autumn; full growth is not reached until the second autumn, or even later. Males may grow faster than females in their first year. Raccoon cubs start walking at about four to six weeks old and by eight to twelve weeks are travelling with their mother while she forages. By four or five months they may be separating from their mother and denning separately, although the family often reunites to den together for the winter.

LITTER SIZE: Raccoons may produce one to eight young in a litter; three or four is usual. The average litter size is higher in the north of the raccoon's range than in the south. Juvenile females tend to have smaller litter sizes than do adults.

TIME BETWEEN LITTERS / LITTERS PER YEAR: Usually there is one litter a year; a second litter may be conceived, born and raised if the first is resorbed, aborted or lost very young.

LACTATION / MILK PRODUCTION: Lactation may last for seven or eight to about 16 weeks.

SEXUAL MATURITY: Females may reach sexual maturity in their first spring and raise a litter, but the juvenile pregnancy rate is only about 59%, compared to 90% or greater for adult females. Males may reach breeding capability by about a year old, i.e. after the main mating season; it is possible that a yearling might be able to father late-born young but generally they are unlikely to mate until their second year.

MALE SEASONAL VARIATION: Testis size and weight varies seasonally, greatest during the winter and lowest in mid to late summer. Males are not seasonally active all year; they tend to be most sexually active at the time when the testes are heaviest.

LONGEVITY / MORTALITY: Mortality is high, with most individuals dying within their first two years of life and few passing five years of age, although small numbers may reach 12, 13 or even 16 years old. Late born litters are unlikely to survive their first winter. Population age structure may vary between areas and between years in a given area. In areas where raccoons are hunted, this is the major cause of mortality. In other areas, collisions with vehicles, starvation, individuals being trapped because they are considered a nuisance, and disease may be more important. The two diseases known to have effects on raccoons at the population level are canine distemper and rabies. While several species do prey on raccoons, predation is not a major source of mortality compared with hunting, vehicle collisions and disease.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Life Stages 

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Natural Diet

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.

NATURAL DIET:

  • Raccoons are omnivorous and opportunistic, eating a wide variety of both plant and animal species, depending on what is available in a given habitat at a particular time of year. In general, plant material appears to make up a greater part of the diet than does animal material. 
  • Plant material consumed includes various soft fruits and berries, seeds, nuts (particularly acorns) fungi and grass; the most important crop plant eaten is corn. 
  • Animal remains identified include various invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. Some species are predated (e.g. eggs and nestlings of ground-nesting birds, small rodents) but larger mammals are probably consumed as carrion (e.g. roadkill). 
  • Additionally, raccoons scavenge from garbage cans and dumps.

QUANTITY EATEN: --

STUDY METHODS: Studies have involved examination of faeces and/or stomach contents. 

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Natural Diet 

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Hibernation / Aestivation

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.

Raccoons do not hibernate, however they may sleep for several days to as long as a month or more at a time during winter. Juvenile raccoons in northern areas may lose as much as 50% of body weight over the winter, but this is reduced for urban raccoons. Even in southern areas in which raccoons remain active all year round, there is a winter weight loss averaging about 16%.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Hibernation - Aestivation 

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Haematology / Biochemistry

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.

HAEMATOLOGY:

BIOCHEMISTRY:

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common raccoon Procyon lotor - Haematology - Biochemistry Notes

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.

METABOLISM (TEMPERATURE): Raccoons have an average body temperature of about 38.1C. They regulate temperature by seating and panting to increase heat loss. Metabolism and body temperature remain normal during the period of winter torpor. Raccoons can gain weight very rapidly if food is available.

RESPIRATORY SYSTEM (RESPIRATION): Normal respiratory rates for Procyon and Nasua are reported as 15 - 30 breaths per minute. Respiratory rates measure in raccoons immobilized with tiletamine-zolazepam plus xylazine ranged from 10 - 56 breaths per minute (mean about 25 breaths per minute).

CIRCULATORY SYSTEM (PULSE/HEART RATE): The recorded heart rate for an anaesthetised raccoon was 200 beats per minute.

HAEMATOLOGY / BIOCHEMISTRY: See:

GASTROINTESTINAL SYSTEM (FAECES AND GUT MOTILITY): Raccoon droppings are about 50 mm (2.0 inches) long, cylindrical, uniform in diameter, granular and red to black in colour. They may be deposited singly or in piles which appear to be used by more than one raccoon.

URINARY SYSTEM (URINE): One study found mean a daily urine volume of 28.0 mL for adults and 16.7 mL for juveniles; urine creatinine concentrations were significantly (P < 0.05) higher in adults than in juveniles. Another study found urine to be pH 6.

CHROMOSOMES: 2n = 38 chromosomes.

MUSCULO-SKELETAL SYSTEM: Raccoons have extensive freedom of movement of the forelimbs, due to extensive shoulder mobility as well as considerable movements possible in the arms, with ability to completely pronate and supinate the forearm. The forelimbs are capable of complex asynchronous movements, indicating complete, separate, neural control of the movements of the  two limbs. The fifth digit is used much less than the other digits and appears to have less flexibility of movement. Raccoons also have the ability to rotate their hind feet backwards 180 degrees; this ability is used for climbing head first down trees.

SPECIAL SENSES AND VOCALISATIONS: 

Raccoons have good vision, hearing, olfaction and sense of touch. 
  • They have binocular vision with good night vision and a good ability to accommodate, although poor or absent colour vision. 
  • Their hearing is acute, with an auditory response range of 50 to 85 KHz. 
  • They have a good sense of smell, this sometimes being used to locate food, for example when it is buried in snow. They are known to use scent in intraspecific communication. 
  • Raccoons have an excellent sense of touch, particularly in the paws and nose. The forepaws are much more sensitive than the hind paws, with four times as many sensory receptors and a larger number of CNS cells responding to ventral forepaw stimulation. 
  • A wide range of vocalisations have been reported for raccoons. including hisses and barks from threatened individuals. The greatest number of types of calls are those used between females and their offspring. most raccoon vocalisations do not carry very far.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Detailed Physiology Notes 

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Behaviour

Feeding Behaviour

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.
  • Raccoons forage at night in wooded and wetland habitats, also in suburban and urban habitats. They climb trees searching for food, as well as foraging along stream banks. They also knock over refuse cans for edible waste.
  • Raccoons may travel considerable distances (up to 6 km/3.5 miles) outside their home range to particularly rich food sources, and may feed together where large amounts of food are available.
  • Raccoons search methodically for food. Both vision and olfaction are used to detect food. One or both forepaws, palms down, are used to find food which is not visible. While items may occasionally be picked up with the mouth first, they are always manipulated by the hands before being eaten.
  • The well-reported "food-washing" behaviour is now known not to be washing but rather may be linked to hunting aquatic prey and may be part of general manipulative and investigative behaviour.

Further information on diet is provided in Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Natural Diet (Literature Reports))

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Feeding Behaviour 

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Parental Behaviour

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.
  • The female raises the offspring on her own, without any assistance from the male. They often move the litter from one den to another, carrying the offspring by the nape of the neck. 
  • Cubs are fed only milk initially, during the period while they remain constantly in the den. Once the cubs are old enough to start leaving a den the female will often move from a tree den to a ground den. 
  • A number of different contact calls between females and her offspring have been recognised; these are used more often when the cubs are young. 
  • Cubs may remain with their mother over winter and gradually become independent the following spring. Older cubs may return to their mother outside the breeding season, sharing a den with their mother and her new offspring.

Further information on reproduction is provided in Common Raccoon Procyon lotor- Life Stages (Literature Reports)

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Parental Behaviour

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Social Behaviour / Territoriality / Predation / Learning

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.
  • Home range size of raccoons is variable. It is affected by the age and sex of the raccoon, raccoon population density, and habitat factors such as climate and resource availability. Home ranges have been measured varying from 0.2 to nearly 5,000 hectares; 40 to 100 hectares may be more usual. In general, males have larger home ranges than do females. Juvenile males may not have a fixed home range. During the mating season, males expand their home ranges and several males may share an extended home range. During the winter, home ranges appear to be reduced in size, at least in northern areas where the temperature drops below freezing and raccoons are less active during the winter. In contrast, home ranges of females in Mississippi were found to increase in size in wet winters, due to unusual access to fresh water. Home ranges of females show considerable overlap, whereas home ranges of males generally show less than 10% overlap.
  • Raccoons do not generally travel long distances. Young male raccoons travel further from their natal ranges than do females. Many raccoons have been trapped repeatedly at distances of no more than a mile (1.6 km) from their position when first captured, however there are also reports of individuals travelling long distances
  • While juvenile females tend to remain in or near their natal range, males tend to disperse, with young males commonly travelling as far as 20 km to new locations. Accounts vary regarding whether or not raccoons are territorial. This appears to vary geographically, with raccoons being territorial in some areas but not in others. Territoriality may be more common in males. Raccoon population densities vary considerably depending on habitat, for example densities have been measured as low as 0.5 - 3.2 per km² in northern prairies, but 250 per km² in a woodland marsh and as high as 333.3 raccoons per km in parts of an urban national park. Population densities may vary greatly in a given location over time.
  • Raccoons can be live trapped, marked using ear tags and then tracked by recapture. Live-trapped raccoons can also be radio-collared for tracking. Raccoons have been tracked directly by following on foot following release from live traps, with den sites noted then confirmed by the presence of excrete and raccoon hair, as well as by the size of the den entrance. For estimations of population size, spotlighting surveys, counting raccoons attracted to scent stations, fur traders' reports, field surveys in which hunters track and tree but do not kill raccoons, and mark-recapture can all be used.
  • Responses to threats include hissing and barking, an arched back, a head down posture, raised hackles, a raised and fluffed tail, tail lashing and bared teeth.
  • Raccoons are generally considered to be solitary carnivores, however their social structure is more complex than this suggests and may vary in different localities. Dens may be shared; during summer males often den together while females are more likely to den alone or with offspring, although yearling sisters may den together. In winter, dens containing several (probably related) raccoons have been found, but with only one adult male present, however males may be found associated with one another even in winter. Even within one population, social structures may vary, for example males may be solitary or they may form groups which travel together. Females generally appear to be solitary, except for associations with offspring. Communal latrines are common; these may be used over long periods. Postures, vocalisations and scents are used in establishing and maintaining social relationships. Aggregated food resources (such as dumpsters) may be used by a number of individuals at the same time.
  • Raccoons compete with Didelphis virginiana - Virginian opossum for den space and for prey. In suburban areas, raccoons share their habitat with domestic cats and dogs; raccoons may be kept away from food sources such as garbage cans by the presence of dogs. Raccoons are effective predators of waterfowl on marshes, when the water levels are low. Raccoons are hosts for a wide variety of parasites. 
  • Other than humans, major predators are Lynx rufus - Bobcats, , fox species (Canidae - Dogs, foxes (Family)), and large owls (Strigiformes (Order)). They may also be predated by alligators (Alligatoridae (Family)), cougars (Puma concolor - Puma), Canis lupus - Wolf, and Martes pennanti - Fisher.
  • Raccoons generally move between dens daily during summer, but a den may be used for a prolonged period in winter. Den sharing is perhaps more common than might be expected; dens may be shared by various groupings including two adult females, adult males, a pair or an adult or pair plus juveniles (particularly in winter).
  • Raccoons are considered to be quite intelligent, learning how to get at sealed garbage, for example, or how to eat eggs. They can learn these behaviours from watching and imitating other raccoons.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Social Behaviour - Territoriality - Predation - Learning 

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Sexual Behaviour

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.

Raccoons may be described as polygynous or promiscuous. Their sexual behaviour varies depending on the number of males and females in a given area at a given time, and the synchronicity of oestrus in the females: when the oestrus of all females in a surrounding area is synchronized, males tend to have much shorter consortships, and subordinate males are able to mate with females they would not normally be able to reach. The reproductive success of males depends on their ability to find and mate with females. In general, heavier males gain greater access to females during the mating season. A group of males can combine territories for access to more females within this enlarged area. Three or four males may combine territories to gain access to more females; within a male group the heaviest, most dominant male carries out 50 - 60% of the matings. A female may consort with only one male, for a period of one to three days, if her oestrus period is short, but more (as many as four) if she has a longer period of oestrus. Copulation may last up to about an hour.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Sexual Behaviour 

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Activity Patterns, Self-grooming and Navigation

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.

ACTIVITY PATTERNS: Raccoons are terrestrial animals but swim well and climb well. They can swim long distances (at least about 300 m (1,000 ft) for adults, and may take to water for several hours if pursued. They have good climbing abilities and commonly descend trees head first, by rotating the hind foot 180 degrees to point backwards.

SELF-GROOMING: After exiting the water, raccoons can shake their coat nearly dry, using a twisting, revolving action. (B402.4.w3)

CIRCADIAN RHYTHM: Raccoons are generally nocturnal, and most active in the hours between dusk and midnight; there may be a second active period a couple of hours before sunrise. In spring, the active period may start before sunset and may last until after sunrise. In areas where food availability depends on tides, they are active at low tide, whatever the time of day or night. Where hunting occurs, during the hunting season the activity peak is later and shorter.

SPEED OF MOVEMENT: Raccoons generally walk but can trot and, if required e.g. by pursuit, can gallop for some time. 

NAVIGATION: A blind raccoon was found able to move around its home range without difficulty.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Activity Patterns, Grooming and Navigation Behaviour 

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.

Raccoons are found in a wide variety of habitats. The essential elements for raccoons are a permanent water supply, available food and appropriate dens. They exploit edge habitat and are commonly found along wooded streams, wooded bottomlands and in wetlands such as wooded swamps and marshes. They generally avoid areas of open fields. They may use different habitat types at different times of the year, depending on resources required. Since the 1940s raccoons have been moving into drier, more open habitats. They have also adapted to use field border strips, and urban and suburban areas. 

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - General Habitat Type 

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.
  • Dens are used for temporary shelter as well as in the winter and by females for bearing their litters.
  • Tree dens, with the entrance at least three metres above ground level, are favoured, but many other sites are used also, including caves and rock clefts, brush piles, ground burrows dug by other species (particularly where trees are scarce), piles of leaf litter or reeds. In marshes and fields, raccoons may sleep on the ground, in the shelter of vegetation, while in salt marshes or mudflats, piles of vegetation as much as 1.6 km from dry land may be used. Dens averaged 29 by 36 cm (11.5 by 14 inches) in one study.
  • Dens may be found throughout the home range of a raccoon. They are usually relatively close to a water source.
  • Raccoons move between dens, sometimes daily; about a third of dens are re-used.
  • Tree dens and burrows protect from temperature extremes and from rate of temperature change. The body heat of the raccoon helps to warm the den. 
  • For winter, hollow tree trunks or branches are preferred and several raccoons may den together. Ground dens also protect against temperature extremes.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Nests - Burrows - Shelters

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.

NATIVE DISTRIBUTION: Raccoons are found in southern Canada, throughout the United States, except for parts of the Rocky Mountains, Mexico and in Central America through to central Panama. Their range has expanded in recent decades both further westward into the Rocky Mountains in the US and northward further into Canada than their historical range.

INTRODUCTIONS: Raccoons have been introduced into France, Germany, and various republics of the former USSR including south-eastern Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Poland and Belarus. These have been deliberate or via accidental escapes from fur farms. From Germany, the population has expanded into the Netherlands and France. Populations on various islands of the West Indies and Mexico may be due to accidental or deliberate introductions. There is an island population off south-east Alaska due to introduction of raccoons from Indiana.

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Distribution & Movement 

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Conservation

Species variation

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.
  • There are variations in coat colour and pattern and in coat structure across the range of the raccoon, with northern raccoons having denser underfur and longer guard hairs that southern raccoons which have lighter fur, often with more red or orange colouration. Coastal raccoons tend to have a coarser coat and more guard hairs. There are a number of subspecies, distinguished on the basis of skull features, dentition and colouration; one reference lists 25 subspecies. 
  • Additionally, several insular raccoons are recognised which some authorities consider to be subspecies of Procyon lotor

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Species Variation 

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Conservation Status

EDITORIAL SUMMARY The following editorial comment summarises detailed information given within the LITERATURE REPORTS. Links to the LITERATURE REPORTS are provided at the bottom of this box.

WILD POPULATION - IMPORTANCE: Procyon lotor is not threatened in the wild, however, several island raccoons, considered by some authorities to be subspecies of Procyon lotor, are endangered.

GENERAL LEGISLATION: In some areas where raccoons are hunted, legislation is in place to restrict that hunting.

CITES LISTING: --

RED-DATA LIST STATUS: The insular species Procyon insularis Tres Marias Islands raccoon, Procyon maynardi Bahaman raccoon, Procyon minor Guadeloupe raccoon and Procyon pygmaeus Cozumel Island Raccoon, considered by some authorities to be subspecies of Procyon lotor (B51), are listed as Endangered in the Red Data List, while Procyon gloveralleni is classified as extinct.

THREATS: The main threats are hunting and traffic. Distemper and rabies may also affect population sizes.

PEST STATUS / PEST POPULATIONS: Raccoons are considered as pests in some areas due to predation on eggs and nestlings of some ground-nesting birds, and in some areas sea turtle eggs. In other areas they may be considered as pests due to crop depredations, although their crop damage impact is not generally serious. They are considered as a problem in several areas in relation to their role as reservoirs of diseases such as rabies, leptospirosis and the parasite Baylascaris procyonis.

CAPTIVE POPULATIONS: Small numbers of raccoons are kept as pets and raccoons are also kept and bred in zoos. Early in the Twentieth Century they were farmed for their fur, but this turned out not to be commercially viable.

TRADE AND USE: Raccoon hunting is a popular late autumn sport in some areas and raccoons have been harvested for their pelts since the 1600s; the raccoon is economically the most important furbearer in North America. Trapping of raccoons for their fur has also been practiced commercially in Russia, where raccoons have been introduced. In the 15th century, raccoons were an important source of meat for Spanish and Portuguese sailors. Small numbers of raccoons are traded as pets, as targets in trials for field dogs and to hunting clubs. Historically, considerable numbers of raccoons (thousands yearly) were transported between states for hunting. Raccoons are also useful as environmental monitors, since, due to their feeding habits, they act as bio-magnifiers of heavy metals. 

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

CLICK THE LINKS FOR Literature Reports Literature Reports: Common Raccoon Procyon lotor - Conservation Status 

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