Where Do Raccoons Live?
There are two main species, or kinds, of raccoons. One is the northern raccoon. The other is the crab-eating raccoon. The northern raccoon lives in Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Central America. The crab-eating raccoon lives in parts of Central and South America and on some nearby islands.
Some other species of raccoons live on tropical islands in the Americas. For example, the Cozumel (KAHZ uh muhl) Island raccoon lives on the Mexican island of Cozumel.
All other raccoon relatives, except for the red panda, also live in the Americas. The red panda lives in Asia.
About 60 years ago, people took raccoons to Europe and Asia to keep in zoos or on preserves. They also bred raccoons for their fur. Some of the animals were released. Others escaped. As a result, raccoons can now also be found in very small areas in Europe and Asia.
A raccoon’s home, or den, can be almost anywhere. Raccoons don’t usually build their own dens, however. They look for empty places to hide away—and just move right in.
Raccoons that live in forests look for hollow spaces in tree trunks. If there is a pond or a stream nearby, so much the better. But not all raccoons are so lucky. Forests have been cleared in many places. Houses have replaced trees. So what can raccoons do? They move into open attics, basements, sewer drains, and garages. On farms, raccoons move into sheds and barns.
When a raccoon does find a den, it doesn’t live there for very long. It may stay for a few days. Then it goes off to search for food. The raccoon may return to its home. But more likely, it will find another hideaway.
A raccoon’s head is shaped like that of a fox. It is wide at the forehead and narrows to a pointed snout. A raccoon has 40 teeth—including four long, sharp canines.
A raccoon’s legs are fairly long for its body size. Each foot has five toes. The toes are so long that they are often called fingers. At the end of each finger is a long, sharp claw. A raccoon walks on the soles of its feet, just as a bear does.
All raccoons share similar features, but they’re not all the same size. Northern raccoons are the biggest raccoons. They are about 24 to 42 inches (61 to 107 centimeters) long and weigh from 8 to 20 pounds (3.6 to 9 kilograms). Male raccoons are usually bigger than females.
A raccoon’s fingers are long and flexible. The fingers are also spaced far apart. With “hands” like these, a raccoon can hold things almost as well as a monkey can.
A raccoon’s hands are seldom still. The raccoon uses the fingers of its forepaws to feel around. As it feels around, it sometimes finds food. That’s how a raccoon can catch fish without even looking. A raccoon often stares straight ahead as it puts its hands into the water. It holds its hands there until it feels something move. Then the raccoon grabs its catch and brings it to its nose. After a quick smell, the raccoon pops its catch into its mouth.
At the end of a raccoon’s fingers are strong claws. These help the raccoon grasp or climb just about anything, from a garbage can to a tree. This climbing ability comes in handy when the raccoon wants to find food or escape from enemies.