The raccoon is a mammal. The most common species live in North America and is also called the North American Raccoon. There is also the crab raccoon in South America and the Cozumel raccoon on a single island off Mexico. Together they form the genus of raccoons.
This article deals only with the most common, the North American raccoon, also known simply as “raccoon”. From the snout to the bottom it is about forty to seventy centimeters long. He weighs between four and nine kilograms. This corresponds to a medium-sized dog.
Its fur is grey, sometimes lighter, sometimes darker. Typical of him is the dark color around his eyes. He looks like he’s wearing a dark eye mask. The round ears are slightly lighter. The raccoon has a bushy, long tail.
Since the 20th century, the raccoon has also been native to Europe, the Caucasus, and Japan. That’s because people brought him there from America. There he escaped from enclosures or was abandoned. Around the Edersee in the German state of Hesse, there are now so many of them that they have to be hunted. They displace some of the native animals.
How does the raccoon live?
The raccoon is related to the marten. He also lives like them: he is a predator. The raccoon likes to eat insects, worms, and beetles in spring, and more fruit, berries, and nuts in autumn. But there are also fish, frogs, toads, and salamanders. However, he has a hard time catching birds and mice.
The raccoon prefers to live in deciduous and mixed forests. But he also likes to enter cities because he can find a lot of food there, for example in garbage cans.
The raccoon sleeps during the day. He prefers caves in old oak trees. If it is too far away from its sleeping place, it can also rest in a quarry, in a scrub, or in a badger’s den. In the north it also hibernates.
In the twilight and at night it really comes alive. He can’t see very well, so he feels everything with his front paws and the whiskers around his snout. Males and females travel in small, separate groups. They only meet to mate.
In captivity, raccoons have gotten used to something special that they don’t do in nature: they wash their food. In nature, they feel their food carefully and strip off everything that does not belong, for example, small pieces of wood. Scientists cannot explain why they wash their food in captivity. The only thing that is clear is that the raccoon got its name from it.
In captivity, raccoons live up to twenty years. In the wild, on the other hand, they only live up to three years. The leading causes of death are traffic accidents and hunting.
How does the raccoon reproduce?
Raccoons mate in February to give birth in the spring. The gestation period lasts nine weeks. A female usually gives birth to three young. They are called “puppies” like dogs.
The puppies are blind at birth and have a light down on their skin. They weigh about seventy grams, not even as much as a bar of chocolate. In the beginning, they live exclusively on their mother’s milk.
After two weeks they weigh about a kilogram. They then leave their cave for the first time with their mother and siblings. They still need their mother’s milk for two months. In the fall, the family separates.
The young females can already become pregnant at the end of the first winter, the males usually later. The females usually stay close to their mothers. The males go farther away. In this way, nature prevents the animals from multiplying within the relatives, as this can lead to diseases.