Page 147 - A Field Guide to Fairfax County's Plants and Wildlife
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(Procyon lotor)


Raccoons are about 1 to 1.2 meters
long from nose to tail. Their fur is grayish brown with black markings,
including a black mask across the face and four to six black rings on the
bushy tail. Raccoons are active mainly at night. They mate in winter, and
three to seven young (called cubs) are born in spring. After nursing her cubs
for about eight weeks, the female (sow) teaches them how to climb, swim
and find food. Males (boars) take no part in raising cubs. Cubs stay with their
mother through their first winter and leave the following spring. Raccoons
usually den in hollow trees, small caves or other animals’ abandoned burrows,
but are equally at home in chimneys, old cars or storm drains. While Raccoons
do not truly hibernate, they may sleep in their dens for days or even weeks
during the winter!

Distribution and Habitat

Raccoons are common in all five Raccoons are highly intelligent and

physiographic provinces; they their hand-like paws are amazingly

are particularly abundant in the nimble. Contrary to myth, Raccoons

Coastal Plain province. They prefer do not “wash” their food but use

woodlands near a stream or other water to moisten and soften it.

water body, but have adapted to

multiple environments. Populations

can grow quite large in urban areas

due to the lack of hunting, absence

of predators, and abundant human-supplied food.

Role in Food Web

Raccoons eat almost anything, but are
especially fond of creatures found in water—
clams, crayfish, amphibians, fish and snails.
They also eat insects, slugs, carrion, birds and
bird eggs, small mammals, fruits, vegetables,
nuts and seeds. Urban Raccoons often eat
garbage, bird seed and pet food. Predators include Coyotes, Bobcats, owls
and humans, who sometimes hunt them for their fur.

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