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Scientific Name: Procyon lotor


Raccoons need no introduction. With their ringed, bushy tail, yellowish brown fur (with a blackish wash) and black facemask, they are unmistakable. Only their slim, grayish-buff cousin, the ringtail, has similar ringed tail. Adults are two to three feet long (one third of which is tail) and weigh eight to 22 pounds (heaviest in the autumn). Raccoons walk flat on their feet, as humans do, and their familiar tracks include an elongated hind foot and a hand-like forepaw. Range:

Raccoons live statewide at moderate elevations, but once they lived only along riparian corridors on the eastern plains. Raccoons have been greatly helped by permanent human settlement, development of irrigated agriculture, planting of shelterbelts and ornamental shrubs and trees, and casual disposal of garbage.


Raccoons can be found anywhere from the dense forest to your back yard. These animals will seek out any food they can and stay close by. The raccoon in the image, was found with three others in a dumpster, and was restored to the wild.


Raccoons eat just about anything: fruits, carrion, nestling birds and eggs, rodents, roosting bats, insects, crayfish and mollusks. They may damage crops, especially corn and melons. They feed near water and rinse their food, perhaps as an aid to smelling and tasting rather than because they are fastidious.


Females produce a single litter of three or four young after a gestation period of about nine weeks. Blind and nearly naked at birth, the cubs have pigmented skin where their facemasks and tail rings will be. Growth is rapid, and the young are weaned by four or five weeks of age. Large owls and other predators kill raccoons, but automobiles may be the greatest cause of death today. Maximum life span is over ten years, but two or three years is average. Raccoons in Colorado are managed as furbearers.


By David M. Armstrong Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Environmental Studies Program, University Museum of Natural History University of Colorado-Boulder

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