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Raccoon
 



Scientific name, Procyon lotor, means "a washer." Raccoons often seem to wash their food in the water.

 Photo of raccoon climbing tree courtesy of Dave Menke, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The raccoon is a common backyard "bandit" that is easy to spot with its black facemask and bushy, ringed tail. These animals are nocturnal. (That means active at night.) They spend the nighttime hours searching for food in cities and countryside. The raccoon is very good with its front paws, using them like hands. Its scientific name, Procyon lotor, means "a washer." Raccoons often seem to wash their food in the water.



Besides their mask and bushy, ringed tail, raccoons are covered with 1-2 inch-long fur. They weigh an average of 14-24 pounds ó but they can grow to 40 pounds! Their fur is a gray color or sometimes black with silver tips. Raccoon fur can range from a light brown to reddish, to a dark black color.

Their ears stand straight up and are about 1 Ĺ inches long. Raccoons make a variety of sounds including purrs, whimpers, snarls, growls, hisses, screams, and whinnies.

Raccoon tracks are easy to spot because their paw print looks like  a pair of small human hands. Each foot has five long toes with short, curved claws. The raccoon's body is round. It has short legs and flat feet that cause it to waddle. The bottoms of raccoon feet are hairless. Look for tracks near the water since they like to wade in woodland streams, prowling for food.                                               

                            raccoon track drawing, ©DNR 

Look for raccoons at night, they start moving around at sunset and then "disappear" after sunrise.



Nighttime means mealtime for raccoons. They are omnivorous, which means that they eat both plants and animals.
Raccoons like a mixture of nuts, fruits, berries, seeds, insects, frogs, turtles, eggs, crayfish, carrion and garbage! They like wooded, brushy areas near water and can often be spotted wading in a pond or stream "dipping" their food in the water.

In spring and fall, they love to rest in empty nests of large birds or squirrels. Raccoons can also make their home in buildings. In the warm months, raccoons are known for their nighttime activities in neighborhoods where they tip over trash cans, and raid gardens and bird feeders looking for a bite to eat.

By November, raccoons have fattened up to build energy reserves for winter when they are inactive. They increase their weight by 120 percent! Raccoons donít hibernate, they just rest inside where itís warm.


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