Creature Feature: Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
By Emma Dean, CG Science Staff
Raccoons are creatures without an urban or rural preference. These nocturnal animals, with their signature black masks and unmistakable ringed tails, will live most anywhere as long as a water source is easily accessible. Raccoons can be found all over North America and Ohio is no exception. In fact, they are present in all 88 counties of Ohio.
Early Ohio settlers hunted raccoons for both food and pelts. Raccoons are still trapped today for their fur, but to a much lesser extent, which has caused the population to explode. The decrease in hunting has also dampened the popularity of the coonskin hat which settlers such as Daniel Boone were famous for sporting. Raccoon fur was once so important that the sale of pelts that, in 1804, Athens County helped to purchase books for the start of the Western Library Association which would later be known as The Coonskin Library.
- The diet of a raccoon is omnivorous in nature and includes fruits, nuts, grains, eggs, insects, crayfish, frogs and mice.
- Raccoons have five fingers on each foot and use their skilled paws to move objects as well as open containers and doors.
- In order to hunt, raccoons rely heavier on both their sensitive sense of touch and sense of smell than on eyesight.
- On average an adult raccoon weighs between 15 pounds to 18 pounds.
- Raccoons kept in captivity have been known to live longer than 10 years. In the wild their life expectancy is between 3 and 4 years.
- They do not mate for life. Instead, a male will mate with a female then move onto another female afterward.
- Raccoons’ breeding period lasts between late January and March with offspring being born between April and June. Babies are known as kits.
- On average litters contain four kits, but can have as few as two or as many as seven. Raccoons only have one litter per year.
- Kits’ eyes will remain closed for the first three weeks of their lives.