Photo by: Miles Away Photography
Scientific name: Procyon lotor
Description: The masked bandit…raccoons are a mesocarnivore with a stumpy hair covered grey body, black hands and feet, black mask around their eyes, and a ringed tail.
Habitat: Raccoons historically are found in wetland type habitats, and woods with sources of water, however; they have adapted to living in human settlements. Raccoons are a nocturnal species, but may be seen foraging or moving during the day. They do not hibernate, but will remain in their dens, found most often in tree cavities, during prolonged bad weather.
Breeding: Raccoons breed in early spring, where males will move into a females home range to mate. Young are born (2-7 in a litter between April-May and will remain with the mother from 4-12 months before leaving to set up their own home ranges. Juvenile raccoons will either disperse in the fall following their birth, or will remain with the mother over the winter and disperse the next spring.
Diet: Raccoons are omnivorous, and will eat anything. Favourite foods include corn, crayfish, fruits and nuts. Raccoons will always take the easiest meal they can find, so if that happens to be your trash…they are happy to “hunt” there.
Threats to species: I love these animals, but realistically, they are a cesspool of disease. Raccoons are carriers of rabies (raccoon rabies virus), distemper (both canine and feline), raccoon roundworm,and parvovirus, to name a few. On top of that they are prey species for larger mammals including; coyotes, foxes, dogs, wolves, great horned owls, and humans. Although humans have lead to high density of raccoons, due to the abundance of food, we are also responsible for many raccoon deaths due to collision with cars, and hunting/trapping (manly due to their “pest” reputation).
Threat to humans: As mentioned above, raccoon disease is a big concern to humans. Raccoons can infect humans with rabies (most often lethal), as well as roundworm (very serious in humans).
Fun facts: The tactile (touch) ability of raccoons is astonishing. Their hands are so sensitive, they are able to open zippers!!!! On top of that, their curiosity and smarts have allowed them to learn human behaviours and by trying to prevent them from getting into our garbage with things like bungee cords, we are increasing their breaking and entering skill sets.
Also, raccoons are incredibly adaptable, this animal is found as far south as the Caribbean (due to introductions to the islands), and also in Northern Ontario (where it snows, A LOT). They have adapted to the different climates and are thriving in all regions they are found.
Raccoon photo-Miles Away Photography- http://www.milesawayphotography.ca/index2.php#/home/
Hinter Wonderland Who’s Who- http://www.hww.ca/en/species/mammals/raccoon.html
Reid, Fiona A. 2006. Peterson field guides: Mammals of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company. New York, NY.