Procyon Lotor is commonly known as Raccoon (sometimes spelled racoon) and sometimes referred to as simply 'Coon. The mammals are native to North America. Their typical habitat is made up of well wooded, deciduous and mixed forest areas with a close supply of a fresh water resource. Their can easily adapt to many habitats which has allowed them to spread into other habitats such as mountainous, coastal wetlands and even urban regions. Due to transfer and deliberate introduction to areas in Europe they have spread across the mainland there and in other areas of the world. In the northern areas, raccoons rest during the winter months, reducing their activity drastically as long as a permanent snow cover makes food limited.
The raccoon can grow to be more than 28 inches in length(not including the tail) and upwards of 30 or 40 pounds in weight. The heaviest recorded raccoon was over 60 pounds. The raccoon can be easily identified due to it's black or dark grey "bandit like" mask over it's eyes and black stripes around its tail. They are typically gray to brown in color and have a thick fur that makes them generally appear round in shape. Raccoons have very mobile front paws resembling that to the human hand. The paws are extremely sensitive and can easily hold and handle delicate and complex objects. Past studies have shown that raccoons have the ability to remember activities and events that happened more than three years in the past. Raccoons are omnivorous and have a very diverse diet. Eating anything from insects and plants to other small mammals. A lot of their foraging takes place in or near a body of water. They are also very attracted to human prepared foods and love anything cooked or even sweets. Corn is a big part of their diet in Northern and rural areas of the United States. Sweet corn will get their attention and expect them to make a mess of the crops when they are foraging. Raccoons are typically nocturnal but do make an appearance just before dark and sometimes even in the middle of the day.
A raccoons typical home range is about 7 acres. They typically choose an area with a good abundance of food, water and shelter. However, males have been traveling as far as 20 miles for foraging and even farther for mating. Long term studies have shown that raccoons are involved in gender specific societies and activities. Related females and family members often share an area and occasionally meet at feeding or housing areas. Males often are in a group of about four to help protect and defend their areas from outside, invading males during mating season. Raccoons mate in early spring and have a gestation period of about 65 days. They bore 2 to 5 young with each litter. Their young are called "kits" or "cubs" and are typically raised by their mother until late fall. The males have no role in raising the young. When the Kits are born, they are blind and deaf for about a month. After they can see and hear, they begin to forage with their mother. Raccoons have been recorded to live over 20 years, but due to being killed by traffic, hunters and other predators their average life is only about 2 years. They also can lose their lives to starvation and distemper in certain areas.
Due to short legs, the raccoon can usually only reach running speeds of 10 to 15 miles per hour. They also do not have the ability to jump very high or far. They have great swimming skills and can swim with an average speed of about 3 miles an hour. They can stay in the water for several hours at a time. Raccoons have the ability to climb trees with ease and great speed do to their claws and compact build. They can also climb down trees face down, which is very rare for any mammal to do. They back paws can actually face backwards allowing their claws to grip as they climb down. Raccoons have a dual cooling system which allows them to sweat and pant at the same time. Their teeth are unique due to their vast diet of meat and vegetables. There canines are very sharp, but they also have molars for smashing and tearing food. Several different vocals are used for communication between raccoons.
Raccoons cannot distinguish color very well and do not have a long range of vision. Due to this fact, they rely a lot on their front paws which are hyper sensitive to help them locate food and other items. They often times wash or wet their food for help with digestion and to discard unwanted elements from their food. They can however see very well at night due to the tapetum lucidum in their eyes. They also have a good sense of smell and sound which is vital to their survival from predators and locating food. They also mark their territories with scents of their urine and feces. Females also secrete a distinct scent when they are in heat during mating season.
The mating season for raccoons differs due to their location. Typically between the months of January and March, the female is in heat for 3 or 4 days. Males roam their home area in search of females to mate with. The act of mating includes a period of foreplay and can last for more than an hour at a time. They repeat mating over a couple nights during the conception period of the female. Due to a typical abundance of females, even the weaker males are usually able to find a mating partner. In past studies, some females mated with more than one partner during mating season.
Raccoons can carry rabies. Rabies is a lethal virus transmitted via saliva. This can also be transferred to humans and other animals. Some carriers of rabies will not show any apparent signs that they are infected. in most cases the animals will appear sickly and with abnormal mobility and aggressiveness. Many other diseases can be carried by raccoons, but most do not effect humans.
The fur or "hide" of a raccoon can be used for many different clothing items and decor. Although the hides were extremely profitable and high in demand in the 1920's, the price and value of a hide isn't in high demand or high in profit at this time. Native Americans were known to use raccoons as a food source and in years past barbecued raccoon featured as a specialty dish for holidays or special occasions. Most societies see coon as a pest and diseased critter, most don't partake in eating raccoon. Some festivals still engage in serving raccoon as a main corse, like the Delafield, Minnesota, Coon Feed. For over 80 years, hundreds gather every year to eat slow roasted raccoon meat at this family festival.