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Procyon lotor

Raccoon Family (Procyonidae)

Measurement: Size: 80-92 cm (32-36 in) Weight: 5.5-14 kg (12-30 lbs)

Description: The raccoon needs little introduction. It has been showcased on so many television programs and cartoons that almost everyone recognizes its masked face. Raccoons are a grizzled gray animal with a light face and distinctive bandit-like mask. The tail has 5-10 alternating light and dark rings.

Range: This is not an animal of the Canadian Rockies, but it does occur from Glacier National Park in Montana and south. Climate is the primary factor limiting the raccoons northern expansion.

Diet: Raccoons have a fastidious reputation, taking the time to wash their food before eating it. In reality, they are not quite so fussy, and in fact are notorious raiders of garbage cans, coolers and anything else they can pry open. The are also an effective predator of small animals, amphibians, eggs, fish, and even insect larvae. In addition, they eat seeds, berries, nuts and other plant foods

Raccoons are in turn heavily hunted by man for their pelts. They may also fall prey to cougars, wolves, coyotes, lynx, bobcat and wolverine. In urban areas, where most of these predators have been removed, their populations may swell unchecked. More effective controls tend to be starvation and losses due to cold winter weather.

Reproduction: They mate in the spring, with births occurring throughout the summer (peaking in May). Gestation averages 63 days. They use dens in trees, under houses or in hollow logs. Raccoons are born without teeth and with their eyes closed, The eyes open after two weeks, and the teeth emerge a few days later. They will remain in the den for approximately 8 weeks, before emerging to forage with their mother. The young raccoons will stay with their mother for their first year, dispersing in their second spring..

Notes: Raccoons are strictly nocturnal, sleeping away the day high up in trees. They descend with nightfall, and in the winter, they use dens for short periods of inactivity (during very cold spells). While they do not truly hibernate, they may stay in the den for several months. In some areas, communal dens have been found, some with as many as 20 or more raccoons. Usually, these dens will contain only 4-6 individuals. The dens can be any natural or man made cavity. They include hollow logs, stumps, caves, or the abandoned burrows of other animals. They may also steal the dens from a family of skunks, evicting the smelly former tenants. In urban areas, large drain pipes, chimneys, sewers and culverts may be adopted.

Raccoons should be treated with caution, as they are a major carrier of rabies in some areas. While rabies is not a concern in the Canadian Rockies, it is more of a problem in the warmer climates of the United States.

The name raccoon, comes from the Algonquian Indian word arakun, meaning "he scratches with his hand."

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All Material Ward Cameron 2005



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