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Procyon lotor


Raccoons are among the most adaptable of the Carnivora, able to live comfortably in cities and suburbs as well as rural and wilderness areas. They use small home ranges, as small as 1—3 square km, and show flexibility in selecting denning sites, from tree hollows to chimneys to sewers. A varied diet is at the root of their adaptability. Raccoons eat just about anything, finding food on the ground, in trees, streams, ponds, and other wet environments, and from unsecured trash cans, which they open adroitly by hand. They can live anywhere water is available, from the deep tropics well into southern Canada. Even in the suburbs, Raccoons can occur at densities of almost 70 per square km. Females can breed when they are not yet a year old, and typically have litters of four young, which they raise themselves. The female nurses her cubs for about 70 days. The cubs' eyes open at 18—24 days and they begin exploring the world outside the den when they are 9—10 weeks old. By 20 weeks of age they can forage on their own.


Raccoons are extremely adaptable, being found in many kinds of habitats and easily living near humans. They require ready access to water. Raccoons prefer to live in moist woodland areas. However, they can also be found in farmlands, suburban, and urban areas. Raccoons prefer to build dens in trees, but may also use woodchuck burrows, caves, mines, deserted buildings, barns, garages, rain sewers, or houses. Raccoons can live in a wide variety of habitats from warm, tropical areas to cold grasslands. (Nowak, 1991; Wilson and Ruff, 1999) Habitat Regions: Temperate; Tropical; Terrestrial Terrestrial Biomes: Savanna or grassland; Chaparral; Forest; Rainforest; Scrub forest Wetlands: Marsh; Swamp; Bog Other Habitat Features: Urban; Suburban; Agricultural; Riparian; Estuarine; Intertidal or littoral REFERENCES Nowak, R. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Wilson, D., S. Ruff. 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution Press.


In the first decades after its discovery by the members of the expedition of Christopher Columbus – the first person to leave a written record about the species – taxonomists thought the raccoon was related to many different species, including dogs, cats, badgers and particularly bears.[12] Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, placed the raccoon in the genus Ursus, first as Ursus cauda elongata ("long-tailed bear") in the second edition of his Systema Naturae, then as Ursus Lotor ("washer bear") in the tenth edition.[13] In 1780, Gottlieb Conrad Christian Storr placed the raccoon in its own genus Procyon, which can be translated either to "before the dog" or "doglike".[14] It is also possible that Storr had its nocturnal lifestyle in mind and chose the star Procyon as eponym for the species. Based on fossil evidence from France and Germany, the first known members of the family Procyonidae lived in Europe in the late Oligocene about 25 million years ago.[16] Similar tooth and skull structures suggest that procyonids and weasels share a common ancestor, but molecular analysis indicates a closer relationship between raccoons and bears.[17] After the then-existing species crossed the Bering Strait at least six million years later, the center of its distribution was probably in Central America.[18] Coatis (Nasua and Nasuella) and raccoons (Procyon) have been considered to possibly share common descent from a species in the genus Paranasua present between 5.2 and 6.0 million years ago.[19] This assumption, based on morphological comparisons, conflicts with a 2006 genetic analysis which indicates that raccoons are more closely related to ringtails.[20] Unlike other procyonids, such as the crab-eating raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus), the ancestors of the common raccoon left tropical and subtropical areas and migrated farther north about 4 million years ago, in a migration that has been confirmed by the discovery in the Great Plains of fossils dating back to the middle of the Pliocene.

1 Species ID Suggestions

North American Raccoon
Procyon lotor

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1 Comment

ClaireHollenbaugh 13 years ago

Cute picture, thanks for sharing!

Jacksonville, Florida, USA

Spotted on Feb 13, 2011
Submitted on Feb 13, 2011

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