Immediately identifiable by their black “masks”, raccoons are in many ways nature’s bandits. Their silver grey coat is spackled with black, making a great nighttime camouflage for this nocturnal omnivore. Raccoons vary greatly in size. They can range in weight from 4 lbs. to 20 lbs., though specimens weighing up to 40 lbs. are not unheard of. When including their long, banded tail they usually measure between 23 to 38 inches long.
Habitat & Diet
Raccoons live just about everywhere in North America. The only areas they avoid are wide-open spaces that don’t have easy access to climb trees or offer hollowed out enclosed places for shelter. In the wild, raccoons get a lot of their food from water-based sources, using their lightning quick front paws to snatch up frogs and small fish. On land, they will eat small vertebrates like mice and are happy to sniff out bird eggs when they are available. They have also become adept at living in urban environments, using their long, dexterous hands to get into garbage cans and anywhere else they might be able to scavenge human leftovers.
Raccoons were once thought to be solitary animals, but are now known to be semi-social, often sharing a territory with a small number of other raccoons. They will not necessarily spend an ample amount of time with one another, but will meet at resting and feeding grounds without conflict. Their comfort with other raccoons is directly related to how plentiful food is, as well as whether or not it is mating season. During mating season males will be more confrontational with one another and far more protective of their territory.
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- A raccoon’s most important sense is their sense of touch. Their non-retractable claws can actually sense and make out objects before they touch them! This gives them an edge when searching for food on dark nights.
- Upon observation, one might notice that raccoons seem to frequently “wash” their hands, dabbing them in water and then rubbing them together. This is due to a hard coating that protects the hypersensitive paws when they are being used for locomotion. Water softens the coating and improves the animal’s dexterity for finding and catching food.
Status In The Wild
Raccoons can live up to 20 years in captivity, while in the wild they usually don’t make it past 3 years old. The mortality rate fluctuates from area to area, and is affected by everything from the severity of local weather, traffic volume and abundance of resources. They have a range that spans almost the entirety of North America and their numbers are very secure.