Raccoon

Procyon lotor

raccoon_0063.jpg

Raccoon in tree
Raccoons live in wooded areas and neighborhoods.
Noppadol Paothong
Family

Procyonidae (raccoons) in the order Carnivora

Description

Raccoons are medium-sized, stocky mammals with a prominent black mask over the eyes and a heavily furred, ringed tail about half the length of head and body, a pointed muzzle and short, pointed ears. The feet are rather long and slender, with naked soles. The upperparts of adults are grizzled brown and black, strongly washed with yellow. Males and females look alike, although males are heavier.

Size

Total length: 21½–38 inches; tail length: 5–12 inches; weight: 6–25 pounds.

FG-0015_Raccoon.mp4

Video of a raccoon in the wild.

Raccoon

Baby raccoon sits at bottom of tree
Audio of a raccoon

meeko

Raccoon peeking out of a tree stump
Raccoon in a tree in Warren County, MO

outside_in5.jpg

photo of raccoon tracks in a sandy river bank
Raccoon Tracks
Raccoon tracks in a sandy river bank.
Habitat and conservation

Raccoons prefer timbered habitat near water. They also may be found in urban and suburban areas. Dens are made in hollow trees, in caves, rocky crevices, abandoned woodchuck burrows and many other places. Hunters and trappers may pursue raccoons during furbearer season. In addition, the Wildlife Code of Missouri allows landowners to control raccoons that have become a nuisance. Check Hunting Regulations and Raccoon Control below for regulations and control details.

Foods

Raccoons eat both plant and animal matter, including persimmons, grapes, Osage oranges, blackberries, grasses, corn, acorns, pecans, and other nuts, as well as crayfish, clams, fish, snails, a wide range of insects, frogs, snakes, bird eggs, mice, squirrels, rabbits and more.

image of Raccoon Distribtuion Map
Distribution in Missouri

Common throughout the state, but most common in prairies and less abundant in the Ozarks and Bootheel.

Status

The state’s raccoon population reached a low point in the 1940s and has been rebounding ever since, in part due to regulated hunting and trapping as well as an increase in suitable habitat.

Life cycle

Raccoons have a home range of 1 to 10 square miles depending on habitat quality. Most active at night, they are usually solitary. Expert climbers and good swimmers, raccoons are curious, clever, and cunning. Most breeding occurs in February, and most litters are born in April or early May, though some litters are born as late as August. The young are usually weaned by August but stay with their mothers until the next spring.

Human connections

Raccoons are a valuable fur species; their fur is used for coats, collars, muffs and trimmings. Also, many hunters enjoy pursuing them with hounds, and the meat is delicious when roasted. Raccoons eat insects and mice and only rarely cause extensive damage to corn, gardens or chickens.

Ecosystem connections

Raccoons are valuable members of the ecosystem, functioning as herbivores, as carnivores, and as prey themselves. They help disperse seeds of the numerous fruits they consume.

Signs & Tracks

Front track:

  • 2½–3 inches long
  • 5 toes
  • width and length generally equal.

Hind track:

  • 3¾–4 inches long
  • 5 toes
  • much less wide than narrow
  • like a small human footprint, except for the long toes.

Other notes:

  • Raccoon tracks are common in Missouri, especially in mud along streams and ponds, and other shorelines.
  • The tracks look like small bare hands.
  • The claws often leave marks.
  • Raccoons walk flat-footed (with heels touching the ground), like people and bears.
  • Often confused with opossum tracks.
  • Raccoons are dormant or inactive in winter, while opossums stay active.
  • Raccoons often walk in a meandering pattern, overturning leaf litter as they hunt for worms.
  • The distance between strides is about 12 inches (varies with size and speed).
  • Walking prints have the left front track beside the right hind track, and the right front track beside the left hind track.
Illustration of raccoon tracks