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Northern Raccoon (Procyon lotor)

Northern Raccoon
Procyon lotor
(Order: Carnivora Family: Procyonidae)

Adult Procyon lotor. Image taken from

Adult Diagnosis: The Northern Raccoon is among the most adaptive creatures in North America. This is perhaps explained by their curious nature, opportunistic habitat choices, and frequent foraging behavior. Raccoons are characterized by 'black masks' on their faces as well as ringed tails. These medium-sized omnivores will can for 5-8 years in the wild (however, longer lifespans have been observed in captivity) and can grow to a length of 58 - 94 cm (23-37 in). Comprehensive studies observe raccoons reaching an average weight of 7 - 8.3 kg for females and males, respectively, although much larger raccoons have been recorded (largest recorded is 28.3 kg!). Another key characteristic of the Northern Raccoon is its very sensitive and dexterous paws. These paws have five digits and can be used to catch prey, grasp objects, as well as open human-made containers.

Life History: Mating 'consortships' displayed by raccoons usually occur between February and March and current study shows this is essentially the only association between sexes among mature raccoons. After copulation, a gestation period of around 63 days occurs, yields 1 -7 infants, called kits. The kits will not leave the den for the first 2 months of their lives, and they will not leave the vicinity of their mother for up to a year. 

Distribution: Because of their adaptability, Northern Raccoons widely distributed across North America. 

Distribution of the Northern Raccoon (in yellow). ©2013 National Geographic. 

Habitat: Raccoons are opportunistic when it comes to selecting a habitat. Essentially, where ever a water source is near by, a raccoon will settle. Ideal dens are hollowed out sections of tall trees, however a raccoon will create a den out of a burrow, hollow log, etc. In anthropogenic regions, raccoons will sometimes live in chimneys storm drains, or attics.

Adult Procyon lotor inhabiting a human-made structure. Image from BatGuys ©2004-2011

Diet: Another adaptive feature of the raccoon is its broad diet. A raccoon will eat fish, mice, insects, bird eggs, frogs, and the contents of human trash.

Behavior: The raccoon is a nocturnal mammal that spends most of its time foraging for food. Depending on the geographical region, a raccoon may be observed gorging in preparation for hibernation. 

Conservation Status: Least Concern


IUCN Red List:





Feldhamer, G., Thompson, B., & Chapman, J. (2003). Wild mammals of North America: Biology, management, and conservation. (2 ed.). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Kalman, B. (2003). The life cycle of a raccoon. New York, NY: Crabtree Publishing.

Stuewer, F. W. (1943). Reproduction of raccoons in Michigan. Journal of Wildlife Management, 7, 60-73.


Submitted by: Ryan Smith, August 2013





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