Animals Nature


raccoon eating

Raccoons are native to North America.  They are sometimes spelled with one less “c” (racoon).  The word raccoon comes from the Powhatan saying for an animal that scratches with its hands.  The explorer John Smith cataloged them as aroughcun.  The English writer William Strachey used arathkone.  The Mexican word for raccoon is mapache and is derived from the Aztec word mapachtli.  There are twenty-two recognized subspecies.

An adult raccoon measures between sixteen and twenty-eight inches without the tail.  The bushy attachment can reach up to sixteen inches.  It is usually under a foot long.  The animal’s shoulders are around nine inches to a foot from the ground.  Males are twenty percent heavier than the ladies.  Raccoons have one of the most variable weight ranges.  The subspecies are between four and fifty-seven pounds.  The average is eleven to twenty-six pounds.  Everyone is twice as big at the beginning of the winter compared to the spring. 

Round ears are outlined in white fur.  Black fur forms a ring around their eyes.  The coloring reduces glare and helps them see at night.  Raccoons can recognize each other based on the imperfections of fur complexion and the rings around their tails.  Dense underfur makes up ninety percent of the coat.  It is comprised of inch long hairs and insulates against cold weather.  They sweat and pant to regulate internal temperature.

white raccoon
White Raccoon – Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar

Raccoon Features

They can stand on their hind legs and use their front paws to inspect objects.  Short legs and a long torso prevent them from jumping far.  A top speed of fifteen miles per hour is possible.  They are slow and capable of staying in water for several hours.  Raccoons climb down trees headfirst by rotating their hind feet.  The feat is unusual for a mammal of their size.

The sense of touch is the most important.  The front paws are sensitive and protected by a thin layer that reacts to water.  There is no webbing between the fingers.  The majority of the surface area is used for sensory perception and tactile impulses.  Objects are identified before touch through sharp and non-retractable claws.  The thumb is not opposable.  Raccoons are somewhat color blind and have eyes evolved for sensing green light.  Their ears and smell are refined.  They can hear earthworms writhe underground.

Raccoons are smart.  Their cunning surpasses a fox.   A study by an ethologist revealed that they were able to open eleven out of thirteen complex locks in less than ten attempts.  They repeated the trials with no issue when the locks were arranged out of order or upside down.  Their learning speed is on par with the rhesus monkey (M. mulatta).  Additional studies showed that raccoons can remember the solutions to tasks for over three years.  The density of neurons in their cerebral cortex are comparable to primates.

raccoon eating
Raccoon Eating – Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar


The nocturnal mammal will surface during the day when easy food sources are available.  Their diet is made of twenty seven percent vertebrates and is thirty three percent plant based. The rest are invertebrates.  The variety makes them one of the most omnivorous animals on the planet.  They focus on insects and worms in the summer and switch to nuts and fruits to build up fat for the winter.  Reptile and bird eggs are their favorite meal.

Mating is common from the end of January to the middle of March.  Males will roam their territory for viable females.  Foreplay can last a few hours and is repeated over multiple nights.  A third of females will have several partners.  Gestation lasts over two months.  Two to five kits or cubs are produced per litter.  They are born blind and deaf.  They hear after three weeks.  Their eyes open a few days after.  The fathers do not raise the young.

Captive raccoons can live for twenty years.  They last for three years on average in the wild.  The weather, disease, traffic and hunting all cause the austere difference.  Half of the animals perish before their first birthday.  Coyotes, owls and bobcats are the primary predators.  The American black bear, cougars, alligators and eagles are secondary.

baby raccoon
Baby Raccoon – Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Procyonidae
Genus: Procyon
Species: P. lotor

Raccoon Subspecies

Procyon l. lotorEastern raccoon (Canada and United States)
Procyon l. auspicatus Key Vaca raccoon (Florida)
Procyon l. elucus Florida raccoon (Florida)
Procyon l. excelsus Snake River Valley raccoon (United States)
Procyon l. fuscipes Texas raccoon (Texas)
Procyon l. grinnelli Baja California raccoon (California)
Procyon l. hernandezii Mexican plateau raccoon (Mexico)
Procyon l. hirtus Upper Mississippi Valley raccoon (United States)
Procyon l. incautus Torch Key raccoon (United States)
Procyon l. inesperatus Matecumbe Key raccoon (United States)
Procyon l. insularis Tres Marias raccoon (Mexico)
Procyon l. litoreus Saint Simon Island raccoon (Georgia)
Procyon l. marinus Ten Thousand Islands raccoon (United States)
Procyon l. maynardi Bahamian raccoon (Bahamas)
Procyon l. megalodous Mississippi Delta raccoon (United States)
Procyon l. minor Guadeloupe raccoon (Guadeloupe)
Procyon l. pacificusPacific Northwest raccoon (United States)
Procyon l. pallidus Colorado Desert raccoon (Colorado)
Procyon l. psora California raccoon (California)
Procyon l. pumilus Isthmian raccoon (Panama)
Procyon l. vancouverensis Vancouver Island raccoon (Vancouver Canada)
Raccoons having words – Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar

5 comments on “Raccoon

  1. Jason Lawrence

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  3. Great information. I think these little tricksters are so cute, and I would love to see a white one.

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