Animal Picture  
  Raccoons - An Overview

The name "raccoon" comes from the Algonquin Indians word Arakun, which, when translated, means that which "scratches with his hands".


The raccoon is a medium-sized animal with a long and thick coat. It has a bushy tail, slender muzzle, black mask on its face, and large pointed ears. Though its color varies from raccoon to raccoon (and with age), the overall color is a dull yellowish grey or greyish brown. The face is whitish with a black mask running from the cheeks to the eyes. The head and body measure between 1.5 and 2.5 feet with a tail measuring between 8 and 12 inches long. The adult raccoon weighs between 10 and 30 lbs.


The raccoon is widely found throughout the Eastern United States and Canada. It is found along streams and lakes, near wooded areas and rock cliffs.


The raccoon is an omnivore with a varied diet of both plants and animals. In the spring, their diet consists mainly of small animals, such as crayfish, young muskrats, squirrels, rabbits, the eggs of ducks, red-winged blackbirds, grouse, pheasants, and quail. From the water, the raccoon eats salamanders, small fish, tadpoles, clams and aquatic insects. In summer, the raccoon's diet is at least 75 percent plants. All kinds of berries, along with such fruits as plums and peaches, are eaten where and when available. Peas, potatoes, and immature corn are taken from gardens or farmers' fields. Field mice, insects, grains, and song birds are also eaten.


The raccoon has few natural enemies other than man which hunt and trap them for their pelts. Many raccoons are also killed by cars while they are out at night foraging for food.

  Life Cycle

Raccoon males seek out females in January and February, and young are born about 63 days after mating. In the Northeast United States, cubs are usually born in April and May. The males have no part in raising the young. The young cubs' eyes open between 18 and 23 days, and then they leave the den at about ten weeks and begin to forage for food with their mother. Cubs begin to leave the home range in the fall, however some cubs might remain with the mother until the following spring.

  Special Features

The raccoon is one of the most commonly seen animals in the Northeast United States and Canada. While most active at night, they can sometimes be seen sunbathing in a tree on a bright sunny day. The raccoon uses its front paws as hands almost as skillfully as monkeys do. Contrary to popular belief raccoons do not wash their food before eating it.

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