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The raccoon (Procyon lotor) is one of the most common mammals to be found in the United States.
Raccoons are found almost everywhere. It is a nocturnal animal that is highly adaptable and can survive well in wilderness habitats and urban areas as well.
A raccoon, also known as a ringtail, is one of the species of nocturnal animals characterized by its bushy ringed tail, and the most popular raccoon is the northern raccoon (Procyon lotor). It is found mainly in North America, specifically Canada and most of the southern United States; and South America. You can identify the raccoon (Procyon lotor) by its stout figure, short legs, small erect ears, a pointed muzzle, black mask-like eyes, and a banded tail.
Raccoons living in forests across North America seem larger than their southern counterparts. The northern raccoon has shaggy, iron-gray, and coarse fur. The southern raccoon has silver fur. The northern raccoon has more blond or brown overtones to its fur. The favorite wild habitat of raccoons includes hollow trees.
Talk about the combination of quirky and cute: that is a raccoon. With its rotund physique with a memorable dark-rimmed set of eyes, the northern raccoon is a delight to your eyes.
These average-sized mammals are nothing like rabbits, squirrels, and deer you'd see usually scampering around because raccoons are a part of an entirely different family. These omnivorous and nocturnal animals belong to the family of Procyonidae that consists of several other animals like the coatis. Raccoons belong to the order of Carnivora. Raccoons are not short of animal relatives. The northern raccoon belongs to a large set of related mammals from the Procyonidae family.
Animals such as the coati and ring-tailed cats living in central and southwestern United States of America, the kinkajou and the crab-eating raccoon living in south and central America, and the red panda are pretty closely related to the raccoon. However, the famous panda is more similar to bears. Genetic studies have indicated that the closest kinsmen of raccoons are cacomistles, part of the genus Bassariscus; and ring-tailed cats belonging to the raccoon species which diversified about 10 million years ago!
Raccoons belong to the family of tree climbing mammals such as the olingo, the coatis, the cacomistle, the kinkajou, and the new world ringtail.
The scientific name of their family is Procyonid. This mammal species is omnivorous and has a close connection to bears which actually constitute the family called Ursidae. You might have been confused with the giant panda or the red panda being grouped with Procyonids as they seem to share certain physical characteristics with raccoons. Still, the giant panda is, in fact, a bear, and the lesser or red panda belongs to the Ailuridae family. The habitat for procyonids is mostly around central America, and the North American raccoon is widely distributed across the north of the tropics.
Here's a little bit about the natural history of wild Procyonids. The animal from this Procyonid family is a relatively small wild animal that weighs 2-26 lb (1-11.7 kg), although the weight varies from species to species. The body length of both females and males is 12-28 in (30.4-71 cm), and the length of the tail ranges from 7.87-27.5 in (20-69.8 cm). You would have noticed that both males and females of this family have fur coats that are generally brown, and most animals of the species also have distinct facial markings, something like an eye mask of sorts. A dark-banded tail with light and dark rings is another common physical trait amongst this wild tropical species; in the case of the kinkajou and coatis, the tail can be prehensile or semi prehensile to give balance and aid in climbing.
Eyes of the relatives of the raccoon's family are large and rounded ears are also common. The feet of the animals have five digits, and they are known to leave clear imprints of the paw pads. They have no fur on their soles. These animals have long fingers to allow for greater agility, and their claws are curved and short and are usually semi retractile. To aid their omnivorous diet intake, procyonids have 40 teeth, including broad molars, small and sharp premolars, and long canines. This dentition allows animals like the raccoon to eat animal flesh, fruits, grains, and invertebrates. Kinkajous are frugivorous, i.e., their diet relies on fruits, but other species like raccoons are opportunistic and consume any other animal as a part of their diet.
The history of determining the genus of the raccoon is a long and notable one. A quick fun fact: The first Europeans from Christopher Columbus's expedition to have written a record about various species wrote that the raccoon was related to a variety of species such as badgers, dogs, cats, and bears.
Carl Linnaeus, a famous botanist and zoologist kept the raccoon in the Ursus genus as the Ursus cauda elongata, as the Ursus lotot, and as the Systema naturae(1740). In 1780, the raccoon finally managed to get its genus Procyon which means doglike or before the dog by Gottlieb Conrad Christian Storr. The reason for naming the genus the way it is was pointed towards Storr's nocturnal lifestyle, which made him choose the star Procyon that is now the name of the genus for the raccoon species.
The scientific name of the raccoon's genus is Procyon which comprises four main species that are commonly termed raccoons in the family Procyonid. The most common species is the Procyon lotor, which is commonly known as just the raccoon. Other raccoon species in the genus are more inclined to live in tropical regions and aren't that well known.
Raccoons are solitary animals that love their own company, and if you look closely at them, several of their physical features help them live alone without anyone's help.
First, the mask of black fur that covers its eyes is a characteristic feature that is assumed to reduce the glare offered by the sun and enhance the night vision of the raccoon. The fur on the body is grayish-brown in color, and 90% of the body fur is dense underfur used to insulate raccoons in the cold. We can't forget the famous tail rings that help the raccoon climb trees.
The legs of males and females appear hunched as they run or walk; do you know why? The reason lies in the length of their hind legs that are longer than their front legs. The five toes allow the raccoon to manipulate and grasp its food in the wild effortlessly. A raccoon's feet are incredibly dexterous, allowing it to grasp food and other objects like jars, latches, and doorknobs. Another remarkable aspect about the raccoon's body is its heightened sense of touch; its front paws are extremely sensitive. This sensitivity increases underwater, enabling a raccoon to examine objects in water very accurately.
Apart from these auxiliary physical characteristics, the raccoon is found to be as big as a small dog. Its body grows up to a range of 23-37 in (58.4-93.9 cm), and a raccoon weighs about 4-23 lb (1.8-10.4 kg). In fact, were you aware that the adult raccoon, a medium-sized mammal, is the largest of the Procyonid family? Males or boars are slightly larger than females or sows. The young are called kits and are relatively smaller in size. A raccoon's size depends on the kind of forests it lives in and the food available there.
Do you know which phylum you belong to or how humans are classified? Probably not, but as a heads up, the classification for humans is a phylum named Chordata, a class called Mammalia, the order of Primates, the genus of Hominidae, and the species of sapiens.
In fact, we all belong with bears, raccoons, and pandas as our class is the same - Mammalia - but that doesn't mean we are related to the family of bears or raccoons, right? Similar is the case with bears as a family and also raccoons; they are closely related but aren't the same, and thus their respective families got separated, but how did this all occur? Let's get to the details of the bear-raccoon relation.
Bear and raccoon families are closely related, but they are different as both animals belong to different families. Their behavior is also found to be similar. In fact, a famous kind of bear, the red panda, has now been put into the family of raccoons. You probably are aware that bears and raccoons are omnivorous as their diet includes both plant food and animals. As a matter of fact, pandas are strict vegetarians whose food only includes a wide range of plants. Another similarity is both raccoons and bears share the same class, Mammalia. From this point, bears are placed within the family called Ursidae and raccoons are classified in the family of Procyonidae.
Despite being in the same class, differences in their family cause raccoons and bears to be more different from each other. Another fun fact: the white-nosed coati is the only animal from North America that shares a similar family to that of a raccoon. But how long ago did the family of bears split from the raccoon's family? Well, Procyonids evolved in the tropics and diverged from Ursids about 30-50 million years ago.
The wild raccoon is essentially a solitary animal, but that doesn't mean it sticks to just one kind of habitat. It may be living in forests one day, and another day it may like to experience the company of humans and come to live in urban areas.
The reason may be to hunt for better food. About 10-25 raccoons per square km have been observed and are usually spotted in places such as attics, chimneys, crawl spaces, sheds, under decks, and on roofs. This means at times living with raccoons is inevitable, so you need to know how to live in harmony with them. Let's learn a few ways how you can do so.
Raccoons are opportunistic feeders; they will often come around your area in search of good food, and so containing available food sources is the key to resolving any food-related conflict with them. Once the raccoon finds the food is contained, the raccoon will move on. You could put out garbage only on the day it is being picked up to discourage raccoons from frequenting your area. Ensure to feed your pet its food inside and not keep any food outside because you should never feed wildlife! To keep track of raccoons, you can also install motion detectors or keep a light on outside so you are aware of their presence.
You may find a lot of raccoons during the months of January to June in the chimney or attic of your house, and the reason is that it is their breeding season. If you discover a family of raccoons nesting anywhere inside your home, then do not remove them until fall as it would be cruel to separate young raccoons from their parents. In fact, if you do end up removing the family of raccoons, the little ones will starve to death, and the separated mother raccoon will frantically try to reach her young child while damaging your property in the process.
This could, in turn, backfire on you. So what's the right time to evict them? Using devices such as a portable radio or a mechanic's light that would frighten adult raccoons could be one way. You could also put ammonia-soaked rags nearby to make their nesting area as smelly as possible, which would evict them immediately. Try all these techniques around the time of dusk as raccoons are nocturnal animals, and they become active before night to begin their nightly routines.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for the family of raccoons, then take a look at African bullfrog teeth and hamster teeth.
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