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Raccoons are medium-sized, nocturnal, omnivore mammals found mainly in North and Central America, parts of Europe, and Japan. Their scientific name is procyon lotor and they measure about 3 feet, including a 12-inch tail. Raccoons weigh in the range of 15 to 40 pounds, which highly depends on their habitat and food availability.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the pygmy raccoon is critically endangered. The pygmy raccoon may have fewer than 250 mature individuals left in the wild, and the IUCN estimates that the total population size, including juveniles, is only 323 to 955. Other raccoon populations are not currently endangered.
Offspring of raccoons
Baby raccoons are called kits or cubs and are usually born in the early summer. Females have one to seven offspring after a gestation period of 60 to 73 days. As a group, a mother and her baby raccoons are called a nursery.
For the first two months of their lives,
babies live in their den and are weened at 7 to 16 weeks. At 12 weeks,
they will start to roam away from their mothers for whole nights at a time,
according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. They become completely independent at
8 to 12 months of age. Raccoons live around 2 to 3 years in the wild.
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Classification/taxonomy of raccoons
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Subkingdom: Bilateria
- Infrakingdom: Deuterostomia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
- Superclass: Tetrapoda
- Class: Mammalia
- Subclass: Theria
- Infraclass: Eutheria
- Order: Carnivora
- Suborder: Caniformia
- Family: Procyonidae
- Genus: Procyon
- Species: Procyon cancrivorous (crab-eating raccoon), with four subspecies; Procyon lotor (common raccoon), with 22 subspecies; and Procyon pygmaeus (Cozumel raccoon or pygmy raccoon).
Other facts of Racoons
Raccoons can run up to 15 mph (24 km/h) and can fall 35 to 40 feet (11 to 12 meters) without injury, according to the ADW.
Raccoons are considered one of the primary carriers of the rabies virus in the United States, though only one person has ever died from a raccoon to human transmission of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One theory is that the black mask around a raccoon’s eyes helps deflect glare and helps with night vision, according to PBS Nature.
Raccoons have five toes on their front paws that act much like human hands.
Raccoons are spreading across Earth—and climate change could help
Much of the world is hospitable for raccoons,
and the potential range of these masked invaders is set to expand into new
areas with climate change, according to new research.
A study published in Scientific Reports looked at what climatic conditions
are most suitable for these native North American mammals, in areas where they are currently found.
The scientists then extrapolated across the globe to find where environment variables
were likely to support populations of the animals—and how that will change with global warming.
The scientists found favorable climatic conditions for the adaptable, voracious omnivores in much of the world,
in a zone that is expected to expand considerably to the north, says Vivien Louppe,
study lead author and a researcher at the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris.
This will only further assist the dispersal of these animals,
which are already spreading as introduced species throughout much of Europe,
as well as Central and East Asia.
Raccoons can outcompete native species and eat massive quantities of prey,
causing significant but little-studied environmental damage in these areas.
“The species is able to cope with a high diversity of environmental and bioclimatic conditions,”
Louppe says—everything from Caribbean mangroves to European temperate forests
to the cold and snowy American North Woods.
The climatic conditions modeled included variables having to do with heat and moisture,
such as average yearly temperature, annual precipitation, and daily temperature range.
Raccoons (Procyon lotor) are best suited to riverine environments.
Their scientific name translates to “before the dog,” and “washer” in Latin,
referencing their habit of catching and washing food in rivers and water bodies.
The name for them in German, Italian, and Japanese all roughly translate to “washing bear.”
First introduced into Germany in the 1930s,
raccoons have dispersed to every surrounding country, west to Spain, south to Italy,
and east to Poland. In Japan, they’ve been bounding their way through the islands
of the country since the 1960s, and are found in at least 42 of the country’s 47 prefectures.
There is another major population in Iran and Azerbaijan.
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