Procyon lotor (Northern Raccoon)
Raccoons are mammals that hail from the United States, mainly the Northern areas in all habitats except for deserts that lack water. They are most abundant near riverbanks and wetland areas in the low to middle elevations but are one the most opportunist mammals and thus co-exist with Humans well, invading urban, residential, industrial and recreational areas, in some places becoming quite a pest with their habits of raiding dustbins and outhouses.
Raccoons have been known to prey upon domestic animals or damage and consume agricultural crops. They are not particular about den sites, which include hollow trees and logs, rock crevices and holes in the ground. These holes are always taken over by the Raccoons – they do not dig their own burrows.
The Raccoon is an extremely skilled climber; it can ascend a tree of any size and is able to come down backwards or forwards. If you are unable to see our Raccoons in their enclosure then try looking up on the branches of the tall tree inside it, you may see a bundle of fur balancing strategically on one!
On the ground this animal usually walks, but it can run if it needs and is also an accomplished swimmer. Although they do not hibernate, Raccoons do tend to sleep a great deal during the winter months and feed intensively beforehand to build up fat reserves for these long periods on inactivity. In spring they eat primarily Crayfish, Insects, Birds, Eggs, Fish and young rabbits when available. In late summer and autumn they eat more grain, nuts and fruits. They are truly omnivorous, like ourselves. A Raccoon hunts in shallow water by turning over rocks, probing and grabbing with its front feet. The common name Raccoon is derived from the Indian word ‘arakum’ or ‘aracoun’ meaning ‘he washes with his hands’
Breeding tends to occur between January and March, Raccoons only pair to mate, leaving the female with the responsibility of rearing the young. The young are weaned between 60 and 90 days and become independent at around 130 days, although they will remain with their mother for the first year.
Although not an endangered species, their major causes of mortality in the mid west include fur harvest, collisions with motor vehicles and disease.