Raccoon Where They Live

Raccoon Nation — Raccoon Facts

Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Procyonidae
Genus: Procyon
Species: Procyon lotor

Size and Weight: The adult raccoon is a medium-sized mammal and the largest of the Procyonidae family. It averages 24 to 38 inches in length and can weigh between 14 to 23 lbs., or more, depending upon habitat and available food. The male raccoon, or boar, is slightly larger than the female, also referred to as sow. The young are called kits.

Physical Features: The mask of black fur that covers its eyes is its most characteristic and familiar feature. One hypothesis for the dark fur is that it may help reduce glare and enhance the nocturnal animal’s night vision. The species has grayish brown fur, almost 90% of which is dense underfur to insulate the animal against the cold. Five to eight light and dark rings alternate on its tail. Because its hind legs are longer than the front legs, a raccoon often appears hunched when they walk or run. The five toes on a raccoon’s front paws are extremely dexterous, functioning essentially as five little fingers which allow it to grasp and manipulate food it finds in the wild as well as a variety of other objects, including doorknobs, jars, and latches. A raccoon’s most heightened sense is its sense of touch. It has very sensitive front paws and this sensitivity increases underwater. When able, a raccoon will examine objects in water.

Life span: In the wild, a raccoon has a life expectancy of about 2 to 3 years, but in captivity a raccoon can live up to 20 years.

Diet: The raccoon is an omnivorous and opportunistic eater, with its diet determined heavily by its environment. Common foods include fruits, plants, nuts, berries, insects, rodents, frogs, eggs, and crayfish. In urban environments, the animal often sifts through garbage for food. The majority of its diet consists of invertebrates and plant foods.

Geography: The raccoon is native to North America and can be found throughout the United States, except for parts of the Rocky Mountains, and southwestern states like Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. It can also be found in parts of Canada, Mexico and the northern-most regions of South America. During the 20 th century, the species was introduced to other parts of the globe, and now has an extensive presence in countries like Germany, Russia, and Japan.

Habitat: Originally raccoons lived in the tropics where they could be found foraging along riverbanks. Over time they moved north up the continent, successfully adapting to new territories and expanding their diet. Traditionally, they live in tree cavities or burrows emerging at dusk to hunt frogs and crustaceans while keeping an eye out for predators such as coyotes and foxes. Barns have aided their northern migration, offering refuge from cold northern winters, and now, raccoons have been found as far north as Alaska. The species originally kept to the deciduous and mixed forests of North America, but its impressive ability to adapt has enabled the animal to move into a wide range of habitats, from mountainous terrains to large cities. The first urban sighting was in Cincinnati during the 1920s. Raccoon populations do very well in urban areas, primarily due to hunting and trapping restrictions, a general lack of predators, and an abundance of available human food. The size of a raccoon’s home range varies depending on habitat and food supply. In urban areas, its home range generally spans about one mile.

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Breeding and Social Structure: The animal is nocturnal, mostly foraging and feeding at night. Though previously thought to be quite solitary, there is now evidence that the species congregates in gender-specific groups. Mating season for raccoons falls generally anytime between January and June. Most females begin reproducing around the age of one. The female has a 65-day gestation period and gives birth to two to five kits, usually in the spring. A mother usually separates from other raccoons to raise her young alone. The male does not participate in the raising of the kits. The black mask is already visible on newly-born kits. The kits stay in the den with their mother until they are between 8-10 weeks old, and will stay with their mother until they reach 13-14 months of age.

Risks: A raccoon has few predators though the animal has been known to be attacked by cougars, bobcats, and coyotes. Disease, infection, and run-ins with cars are generally the primary risks for the species. Some of their diseases, including roundworm, trichinosis and rabies, also place people and pets at risk.

Additional Facts:

  • The raccoon’s scientific name, Procyon lotor is neo-Latin and translates to “before-dog washer.”
  • Christopher Columbus is the first individual we know of to have written about the species.
  • The raccoon’s taxonomy has been debated over time. Carl Linnaeus placed the raccoon in the Ursus genus—first as Ursus cauda elongate (“long-tailed bear”) and then as Ursus lotor (“washer bear”). In 1780, Gottlieb Congrad Christian Storr created a separate genus for the species, Procyon, meaning doglike.
  • The English word “raccoon” is an adaptation of a native Powhatan word meaning “animal that scratches with its hands.”
  • In the winter, the raccoon does not hibernate, but can sleep in its den for weeks.
  • A raccoon can run at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour.
  • The raccoon is a good swimmer and can stay in water for several hours.
  • The species makes a variety of vocalizations including hisses, whistles, screams, growls and snarls.
  • A series of studies in the mid-to-late-twentieth century show that a raccoon can remember solutions to tasks for up to 3 years.

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Where Do Raccoons Live?

Generally speaking, raccoons tend to favor wooded areas close to water, often making their dens in trees and logs. However, they can also be found in a variety of other habitats, from prairies to marshes and even cities, wherever there is a ready source of food.

Raccoons are common throughout the United States, although they are rare in the desert regions of Nevada, Utah and Arizona as well as some parts of the Rocky Mountains. They can also be found in Mexico, Central America and southern parts of Canada.

Unless the mother raccoon is caring for her young, raccoons tend to be solitary creatures, living and hunting alone.

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Where Do Raccoons Live? Raccoon Range and Raccoon Habitat

Raccoons are found throughout most parts of the United States and southern Canada. They also occur in South America i.e. from Mexico to its northern areas. Apart from the U.S., they were also introduced in various other continents i.e. Europe and Asia. Now let’s take a deep dive into the animal’s range and habitat and find out where do raccoons live in United States, Canada, Europe and other parts of the world.

Where Do Raccoons Live in the World – Raccoon Range

Raccoons are native to the United States. They are normally found throughout the continent, except for few states. Apart from Procyon lotor (North American or Common raccoon), the remaining six species occur all over Central, South and North America. Besides, they are also found in the Caribbean Islands. The common raccoon is found from Canada to Panama.

See also:  How To Catch A Raccoon In Your House

Raccoons in Europe

Outside the United States, raccoons were introduced in various countries across the world. In the 1930s, the Soviet Union and Germany imported these mammals. Some of the other European countries where they occur today include West Germany, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Today, the largest number of raccoons in the world (outside the U.S.) exists in Germany. In Europe, the German city called Kassel (at the northern Hasse) holds the densest population of raccoons i.e. every square kilometer hosts 50 to 150 raccoons. Likewise, they are also present in good numbers in northern France.

In Asia, they were successfully introduced in Japan as well.

Image copyright Wayne Wetherbee

Where Do Raccoons Live in Canada

In Canada, raccoons live throughout the country, except Labrador and Newfoundland. With time, as more and more area is cleared, the range of these mammals expand toward the north.

Raccoon Habitat

Raccoons do not restrict themselves to any specific habitat. Instead, they often occupy variety of habitats thanks to their ability to adapt perfectly to the surroundings. Since raccoons are extremely adaptable animals, they tend to occur in grasslands as well as tropical areas. Moreover, they are one of the few animals that also thrive on urban settings, including farmlands and suburbans.

These mammals inhabit swamps, forested areas and agricultural lands. Normally, they den in abandoned holes of trees and attic of urban houses. But they are mostly found living near ponds in moist woodlands.

Like us, they also require water, shelter and food sources to occupy any habitat. However, they usually prefer living in floodplain forests, marshes and hardwood swamps. They can also thrive on prairies and farmlands.

The range of these animals expands with the availability of food as well as growing number of people in a particular area. In winter when the food is in short supply, they move back to their dens and sleep for longer periods to conserve energy.

Image copyright Richard T.

The specific kind of habitat also determines raccoon population in a certain area. In agricultural areas, there are almost 5 to 10 raccoons in every square kilometer. On the contrary, each square kilometer in urban areas holds up to 100 raccoons.

Generally, raccoons do not prefer living in the open terrain. The winter denning of these mammals occurs mostly on hollow trees and logs. In places where such dens are unavailable, raccoons live in abandoned burrows of other mammals.

They seem to have little fear of humans which is why they usually settle in urban areas. In Canada and the U.S., they are present in suburbs like Toronto, Washington and Chicago. They are also found in Albuquerque, a city in the state of New Mexico. In the cities, the denning sites of raccoons occur in the nearby forested areas.

Since raccoons are nocturnal animals, they are rarely visible in daytime. For that reason, most people are curious about where do raccoons go during the day? Do they go to sleep in daylight hours or remain active and search for food all day long?

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Raccoon Facts

Raccoons are highly intelligent and curious creatures, but they can also be a nuisance to any homeowner. These nocturnal mammals can destroy gardens, make a mess by tipping over garbage cans, and can cause structural damage in search of food. On this page, you will learn general raccoon facts and how to identify raccoon damage.

See also:  What Animal Is Similar To A Raccoon

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General Raccoon Facts

Scientific Name: Procyon lotor

Average Size: 12″ tall; 24-38″ long; 14-23 lbs.

Average Lifespan in the Wild: 2-3 years

Identifying Features: Gray fur with a black mask and 4-7 black rings around its tail; pointy snout with a black nose; dexterous front paws.

Raccoon Geography

Raccoons are natively found throughout most of North America. Recently, raccoons have emerged in parts of Europe and Japan.

Raccoon Habitat

Traditionally, raccoons prefer heavily wooded areas with access to trees, water and abundant vegetation. There, they make their dens in the hollow parts of trees as well as abandoned burrows, traveling up to 18 miles to forage for food.

Raccoons are extremely adaptable. They are often found in suburban and urban areas, making their homes in man-made structures like attics, sewers, barns and sheds. In urban areas, raccoons tend to stay closer to their dens with a range of only about 1 mile, depending on their age and sex.

Raccoon Diet

Raccoons are omnivores with an opportunistic diet; eating almost anything they can get their paws on. In urban areas, where wildlife and fresh vegetation are limited, raccoons will be more likely to eat human food and invade trashcans. The majority of their diet consists of sweet foods like fruits and invertebrates.

Some favorite foods include:

Raccoon Behavior

Activity: Nocturnal in nature, raccoons are mostly active at nighttime. They are most active in spring, summer and fall, and will sleep in their dens for most of the winter.

Reproduction: Reproduction begins in late winter. Females, or sows, usually give birth to 1-6 baby kits in April or May. Mothers are very protective of their young until they separate after about a year.

Social Interaction: Raccoons are independent after 12-14 months of age. Adults live in loose knit communities of 4 — 5 raccoons for better protection against predators.

Communication: Raccoons communicate with each other using over 200 different sounds and 12-15 different calls.

Skills: Raccoons possess amazing dexterity that gives them the ability to open doors, jars, bottles and latches. They are also great climbers, which allows them to better access food and shelter.

Identify Raccoon Damage

Raccoons can be extremely destructive due to their curiosity, intelligence, dexterity and climbing skills.

Here are some signs to help identify a raccoon problem:

  • tipped trash cans
  • raided bird feeders
  • pilfered gardens
  • damaged crops (ex. chewed sweet corn, hollowed out watermelons)
  • uncapped chimneys
  • torn shingles
  • raccoon tracks: five long toes and fingers resembling human hands

Raccoon Diseases

Raccoons can carry several bacterial diseases and parasites that can be transmitted to humans and pets through a bite or the ingestion of raccoon waste.

Some diseases that can affect humans and pets include:

  • leptospirosis
  • salmonella
  • roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis)
  • rabies

Although raccoons are notorious for carrying rabies, there has only been one recorded human death from raccoon rabies in the United States. Some signs that a raccoon may have rabies include aggressiveness, unusual vocalization, and excessive drool or foam from the mouth. If you think you may have identified a rabid raccoon, call your local animal control authority immediately.

Fun Facts

A raccoon will rinse its food in water prior to eating it. When there is no water close by, a raccoon will still rub its food to remove debris.

Some hypothesize that the purpose of a raccoon’s black mask is to reduce glare, helping it to see better in the dark.

A group of raccoons is called a nursery.

Although raccoons only live 2-3 years in the wild, a raccoon can live up to 20 years in captivity.

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