Recognizable by its striped face and ringed tail, the raccoon has invaded almost every habitat and is commonly found even in towns and cities.
Recognizable by its striped face and ringed tail, the raccoon has invaded almost every habitat and is commonly found even in towns and cities. The raccoon is curious, clever and solitary, and deceptively cuddly looking, but it owes the success of its population to its ability to live in a wide variety of habitats and to survive on an extremely flexible diet.
The raccoon leads a largely solitary life. Raccoons are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. They do not hibernate in winter, and those in the more southerly ranges are active year round. But those that live further north, where it is colder, grow thick coats to keep warm and spend long periods sleeping.
The raccoon normally feeds along waterways and lakes. It hunts as it swims, looking for fish, crayfish, frogs, turtles, and turtle eggs. The raccoon will catch mice and muskrats along the banks of banks of streams and rivers and will also search the woodlands for insects, nuts, fruits, young birds and bird eggs. Raccoons use their hands as well as monkeys do. They pick up their food with them and then place it into their mouths.
While the male raccoon mates with different females, the female will mate with only one male, avoiding all others that season. Mating usually takes place in winter, but can continue until June, usually peaking in February-March. About nine weeks after mating, the young, or kits, are born in a nest of leaves made by the female in a hollow tree or log. The kits are blind for their first three weeks, but they grow quickly. The female cares for the young exclusively, teaching them to hunt and to climb trees. With such predators as bobcats and cougars lurking, the first weeks are a dangerous time for the young kits. Although some families break up in the fall, the kits normally stay with their mother through their first winter, after which they gradually leave. The young females begin to breed when they are a year old, the males generally begin when they are abut 2 years old.
Raccoons have long been hunted and trapped for their fur. Raccoons have also been killed because of the damage they do to crops and poultry. Still, their overall numbers have not declined. Because of its fur, the raccoon has been introduced into other areas, notably, Europe and Russia. Protected in national parks and nature reserves, numbers are strong. The raccoon is considered a pest in parts of its range, particularly in farming areas.