Inhabits stream and lake borders near wooded areas
or rocky cliffs. Most abundant in riparian and
Omnivorous, will eat whatever is available.
Feeds on carrion, mammals, birds, reptiles, insects,
amphibians, grains, nuts, and fruits. Also
readily consumes food prepared for animal or human
Mostly nocturnal and very intelligent. May use
front paws to find food. Does not hibernate.
Uses hollow logs, trees, and rock crevices as den
sites. Breeds during February and March; 63
day gestation; young born during April or May;
litter size is usually 2 to 4.
The Raccoon is one of the
easily recognizable furbearers with a ringed tail
and patches of dark fur over the eye areas
resembling a mask. Known to many simply as a "coon",
the raccoon is managed by some states both as a game
animal and as a furbearer. This important and well
distributed species is adaptable to a variety of
habitat types and the species thrive in both
wilderness and urban areas.
Raccoon weights vary from region to region. Generally,
raccoons attain larger weights in northern states and
lighter weights in southern states. Most adult male
raccoons in northern states weigh 15-18 pounds during
fall harvest seasons, with females averaging 2-3 pounds
less. In some southern harvest areas, mature males weigh
9-10 pounds with females from the same areas weighing
8-9 pounds. Occasional specimens in northern states may
weigh 30 pounds. Several individual raccoons have been
taken from the wild weighing more than 50 pounds, but
whether these animals have been fed as captives is
Raccoons have 40 teeth,
including 4 elongated and sharp canine teeth. The hind
legs of the raccoon are longer than the front legs,
giving them a hunched appearance as they walk or run.
Toes number five on each foot and the front feet are
dexterous, allowing the raccoon to grasp and clutch
The fur of raccoons has guard
hair of 2-2 1/4 inches long on the back areas, and
underfur is 1 1/2" or 1 3/4" long and dense. Depending
upon market demands, raccoon fur is used both as long
haired fur and as a sheared and dyed short haired fur.
Fur colors vary in areas. Most
raccoons are a dirty blondish with darker colors of
guard hairs mottling the overall appearance. Reddish
colors occur regularly in areas and some raccoons are
Breeding seasons for raccoons are usually in January in
southern states, and February in the middle and northern
states. Young males are evicted from the dens at this
time and mature male raccoons search out all available
females . Female raccoons are capable of breeding at 10
months of age, but males do not breed until their second
year of life.
Gestation is usually 63 days,
and 2-4 young are common in southern states. Litters of
4-6 are more common in northern states. The young
raccoons are cared for solely by the mothers and mother
raccoons are aggressive in the protection of their
Raccoons eat a wide variety of foods and store up layers
of fat during the fall to prepare for winter. Contrary
to common beliefs, raccoons do not hibernate during
extreme weather, but they do stay in dens for weeks at a
time using up stored body fats. In southern states,
raccoons may stay active all winter.
This species does exhibit a
curiosity which is an indication of intelligence.
Raccoons are very strong animals and both good swimmers
and good tree climbers. When climbing a tree, a raccoon
will usually climb in a hand over hand fashion, but they
are capable of bounding up a tree. Raccoons descend
trees either by backing down or turning around and
coming down head first. They do not hesitate to jump
from heights of 30 feet when they feel threatened.
The front paws of raccoons are
very dextrous and the species commonly hunt in shallow
water by turning over stones in search of crayfish and
other foods. Washing of foods before eating is not
normally done by wild raccoons and this activity by some
penned raccoons may reflect boredom or curiosity.
Raccoons are opportunists, commonly eating whatever is
available. Important foods include crayfish, mussels,
clams, frogs, salamanders, earthworms, fruits, nuts,
grains, carrion, eggs, and any available warm blooded
small mammals or birds. Preferred foods may include fish
and sweet corn.
Territory sizes vary with
individual coons and most home ranges seem to cover 2-4
square miles. The shapes of the territories are
irregular and usually include the waterways within the
area. Coons do a significant amount of their hunting in
or around water and preferred habitats include a stream,
pond or marsh in the area.
A raccoon may cover as much as
3-5 miles on mild fall nights and eat as much as 5
pounds of food while storing up body fat for winter.
Usually, the raccoon will den up for the day at a
convenient den. Attempts to transplant coons are rarely
successful because the species does not stay where they
are relocated. In one South Carolina attempt, 789
raccoons were released and only 14 were ever recovered.
Two were recovered within 20 miles of the release site,
and a dozen were found at distances of 20-180 miles. The
rest could not be located.
raccoon does not compete severely with other species in
the demands upon the habitat. Many species can and do
share the same areas with raccoons with a minimum of
Raccoons can and do cause damage
at times, especially when they are abundant. Waterfowl
nests are raided regularly for eggs and raccoons
sometimes raid farmyards for chickens or other fowl.
Corn in the milk stage is vulnerable to raccoons and
they find sweet corn particularly attractive. The
damage to sweet corn by raccoons can be extensive, as
this species commonly wastes more sweet corn than it
Adult raccoons are sometimes
preyed upon by coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions
where ranges overlap. Juvenile raccoons are also killed
at times by large owls, eagles and fishers.
Several diseases afflict coons,
including both canine and feline distemper. Raccoons
occasionally carry leptospirosis, which can be
transmitted to humans via biting. Rabies is also a
problem in raccoons and this species is the leading
carrier of this dreaded disease in some eastern and
southeastern states. Parasites infecting coons include
roundworms, flatworms, tapeworms, mange causing mites,
lice and fleas.
Best Management Practices