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Species Description

Northern Raccoon

Procyon lotor


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Procyonidae

Description

The fur is grizzled in appearance, varying from grayish to blackish. (Cinnamon and albino forms sometimes occur.) The belly is usually gray with long white guard hairs. The triangular ears are tipped with white, and they set off the white face and pointed muzzle with its black mask. Adults range from 71.1 - 83.8 cm (28 - 33 in) in total length and weigh from 5.4 - 11.8 kg (12 - 26 lbs). The Raccoon is a short-legged, stocky, medium-sized carnivore. The characteristic ringed tail and the "bandit-like" black facial mask make the Raccoon one of the most easily identified mammals in North America.

Life Cycle

Breeding takes place from December to June, peaking in February and March. A litter of 1-7 young are born two months later. Young Raccoons, called kits, are weaned at 10 - 12 weeks of age. At this time they begin to travel with the female on her nightly foraging forays. A Raccoon reaches sexual maturity in the spring following its birth.

Natural History

The raccoon is one of the most adaptable mammals in the United States, being found in urban and suburban as well as rural habitats, from coastal marshes to forested uplands. It prefers wetland sites associated with rivers, streams, marshes, swamps, and lakes. In the wild, it makes its den in a hollow tree or a crevice in a rock ledges, but this adaptable animal will also take advantage of human structures by moving into a barn, an attic, and an abandoned building. A healthy raccoon is nocturnal, foraging throughout the night and returning to its den before sunrise. (A Raccoon that appears during daylight hours should be avoided, particularly if it appears to be sick, weak, or aggressive. Such an animal may be infected with the deadly rabies disease.) The Raccoon is active all year long, but during periods of extreme winter weather it may remain in the den and live off stored body fat. It is an omnivore, feeding on whatever is most available during a given season. Its diet includes fruits, berries, nuts, acorns, insects, small mammals, birds and their eggs, crayfish, crabs, frogs, turtle eggs, and fish. Some biologists suggest that when a Raccoon appears to be washing its food before eating, it is actually feeling it rather than cleaning it. Predators of raccoons include bobcats, foxes, coyotes, and owls. Vehicles are also a cause of raccoon mortality, for raccoons are frequently seen as road kills. Raccoons may live 5 -6 years in the wild and 10 - 12 years in captivity.

Range

Northern Raccoon Region Map The Raccoon is found throughout the United States, with the exception of some desert and high mountain areas in the west. It is a very adaptable animal, and occurs in all habitats in Georgia. The Raccoon is seldom found far from water, a fact which influences the local distribution of this species.

Conservation Status

Considered a fur-bearer, the Raccoon is hunted and trapped for its pelt. In Georgia the hunting/trapping season for this species occurs in the fall and winter months, from October to February.

Similar Species

No other mammal in Georgia has the Raccoon's black face mask or its tail ringed with black and white.