Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin


Procyon lotor


Raccoons have a stout, bear-like body with a black mask and a fluffy ringed tail. Their fur is a ‘salt and pepper’ gray and black with a light gray belly. Adults are about 2-3 feet long and can weigh 10-30 lbs. The northern individuals tend to be larger than the southern individuals.


Found throughout North America, they are very adaptable and can thrive in a variety of habitats including deserts of the southwest, tropical forests and northern hardwoods. They are one of the few species that can thrive in urban areas. The home range of a raccoon is typically 1-3 square miles. Males can be very territorial. They commonly sleep in a hollow tree, usually the limb instead of the trunk.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Raccoons may travel over a mile to feed. They are a classified as a omnivore; consuming as much vegetation as animal matter. Fruits, acorns, seeds will be eaten when available. They especially like bird and turtle eggs, insects, crayfish, frogs and small mammals. Raccoons will also prey on small pets and livestock if they can get them.


Male raccoons are known as boars and females are known as sows. Raccoon young are called kits. Raccoons are sexually mature at year of age. Females will give birth to 3-4 kits in one litter. Kits are weaned at 10-12 weeks and stay with their mother until they are 10 months old.

Months and Times of Activity

Raccoons are nocturnal mammals, active mostly at night. Even though they are nocturnal animals, raccoons are very adaptable; it is not uncommon to see a raccoon foraging mid-day in suburban and urban areas. This does not mean the raccoon is rabid (has rabies)! It only means that the raccoon has learned what times there are no people around (mid-day when people are at work).

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

o    Raccoons are known to ‘wash’ their food. Although they manipulated and moisten food in water, they use the same motions when handling food when there is no water present.
o    Raccoons are known to carry a wide variety of diseases and parasites, some of which can be spread to humans. For example, raccoons can spread the rabies virus to humans by biting or scratching. Baylisascaris procyonis is a roundworm that can live in the intestines of raccoons; this roundworm can cause Visceral Larval Migrans disease and also infection of the central nervous system. Humans can become infected with this roundworm if they come in contact with the feces of an infected animal (raccoon), this is also true for the spread of giardiasis (which causes severe gastrointestinal symptoms).
o    For Native American stories of raccoons please visit
o    Children’s book featuring a Raccoon: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn


"Infectious Diseases of Raccoons." Department of Environmental Management. Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, n.d. Web. 5 Feb. 2013.
Kern, William H., Jr. "Northern Raccoon." EDIS. University of Florida, June 2012. Web. 25 Jan. 2013.
Link, Russell. "Living with Wildlife Raccoons." Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2004. Web. 5 Feb. 2013.x
Penn, Audrey. "The Kissing Hand Series." Tanglewood Press. Web. 5 Feb 2013.