Top facts about Racoons

Cheeky and endearing, The Life Tree loves Racoons!  Rory Racoon is a key character in our picture and so we thought we would find out a bit more about these super cute looking critters!

Where do Racoons Live?

Racoons are indigenous to the Americas.  They are found across southern Canada, most of the United States, and into northern South America. However, they can also be found in Japan and parts of Europe.  They are very adaptable animals so, although their preferred habitat is damp woodland areas, they can live in any terrain and climate.  So they are also found in mountainous areas as well as in farmlands, suburban, and urban areas.  Indeed, Toronto is the raccoon capital of the world. Fifty times more raccoons live there than in the surrounding countryside!

What do Raccoons look like?

Racoons are quite stocky and weigh around 6 kilos on average making them the size of a medium sized dog.  They are known for their distinctive black facial masks and their bushy tails.  Their forepaws are like human hands and with five digits this makes the Raccoon very handy (pardon the pun!).  We tend to think of raccoons as having a greyish coat but their colouration actually varies depending on the habitat in which they live.  Racoons’ coats can range from grey to reddish brown to buff and consist of a dense undercoat that insulates our furry friends against the cold and wet weather.

Racoons are clever

Racoons are known for their intelligence.  In terms of mammal IQ they are ranked just below monkeys and studies have shown that racoons are problem solvers and can remember the solution to a task for up to three years!

What do Racoons eat?

Racoons are omnivores which means that they eat both vegetation and meat.  The vegetation in their diet varies from fruits to nuts and includes grapes, cherries, apples, berries, and acorns. Racoons may also eat peaches, plums, figs, citrus fruits, watermelons, and walnuts. When it comes to meat, some of their favourite treats include fish, crayfish, frogs, bird’s eggs, rodents and insects. Urban raccoons have adapted to rifle through dustbins to search for food.

Behaviour

Rac

Racoons are nocturnal and they are not very social creatures. Although it used to be thought that they were completely solitary animals, scientists now have evidence to suggest that racoons do engage in some social interaction.  Related females often share a common area, whilst unrelated males sometimes live together in small groups in order to defend their territory against other males during the mating season.

The gestation period is about 65 days, after which a litter of two to five “kits” will be born.  As a group, a mother racoon and her kits are called a nursery – how cute!  For the first two months of their lives, the kits live in their den and are weened at 7 to 16 weeks. At 12 weeks, they will start to spend time away from their Mums – sometimes for whole nights at a time, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. After 8-12 months they will become completely independent and venture off on their own into the big world.

10 Top facts about Racoons
  1. The racoon is quite a close relative of the bear family.
  2.  Racoons are territorial animals and their territory size can range from around 7 acres for an urban female racoon to 12,000 acres for a male raccoon living in the prairies!.
  3. Although captive raccoons have been known to live over 20 years, their life expectancy in the wild is only around 3 years.
  4. Racoons have a comprehensive language. Scientists have identified that they can make over 51 different sounds! They purr, whistle, growl, hiss, scream and even whinny.
  5. A racoon’s hands are so nimble they can unlace a shoe, unlatch a cage and take coins out of a shirt pocket!
  6. Christopher Columbus is the first person we know of to have written about raccoons.
  7. Racoons have the ability to rotate their hind feet a full 180 degrees meaning that they can climb down from trees head first.
  8. The word rccoon, derived from the Algonquin Indian word “arakun” means “he scratches with hands”.
  9. Racoons wash their food in streams and even dig toilets in areas they frequently visit.
  10. A racoon can run at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. They are also great swimmers and climbers and can withstand a drop of 35 feet from a tree.
More Information:

International Union for Conservation of Nature

Northern Raccoon Facts – Animal Diversity Web

Hinterland Who’s Who – Raccoon