The raccoon, Procyon lotor (sometimes spelled racoon), also known as the common raccoon,North American raccoon, northern raccoon and colloquially as coon, is a medium-sized mammal native to North America. It is the largest of the procyonid family, having a body length of 40 to 70 cm (16 to 28 in) and a body weight of 3.5 to 9 kg (8 to 20 lb).
Raccoons use olfaction, vision, and especially hapsis to locate, identify, and capture food. The highly sensitive front feet have limited grasping capabilities, and most objects are held or rolled between the two front feet
Historically, raccoons were rare in southern Canada and in parts of the Rocky mountains and western deserts. Raccoons dramatically increased in density beginning in the 1940s, with a concomitant increase in distribution.
Raccoons escape many predators by remaining inactive during the day in a den. While active they remain alert and can be aggressive. They are preyed on by large predators such as coyotes, wolves, large hawks, and owls.
During the mating season, raccoon males frequently expand their home ranges, presumably to include the home ranges of more females as potential mates. Females are sometimes found temporarily denning with males during the mating season. After mating there is no association of males and females.
Opportunistic and omnivorous, the raccoon has a varied diet that includes fleshy fruits, mast (especially acorns, hickory nuts, and beechnuts), grains, invertebrates (particularly crayfish and insects), rodents, young rabbits, birds, turtles and their eggs, fish, and carrion. Raccoons are known for raiding garbage, agricultural crops, chicken coops, and pet food left outdoors.
Raccoons prefer wooded areas near streams, ponds, and marshes but are highly adaptable and can live in agricultural areas and in close proximity to human developments. They make their dens in tree cavities, abandoned woodchuck or fox burrows, rock crevices, brush piles, chimneys, attics, sheds, and other structures.
There is no mistaking a raccoon for any other animal. Its stout, bear-like body, prominent black mask, and heavily furred, ringed tail all are distinctive. Adult raccoons are about 2 to 3 feet long (including their 10-inch tail) and weigh anywhere from 10 to 30 pounds. Larger animals sometimes have been recorded, but Florida raccoons tend to be smaller than those occurring farther north.
The northern raccoon, Procyon lotor, is known in many parts of the world. This is one animal that most people are well-acquainted with wherever it occurs because of its large size, abundance, ecological success, and often its nuisance behaviors. It is usually just called raccoon or "coon" in English; malpache norteno, malpache boreal, malpachin, osito lavador in Spanish; and guaxinim in Portuguese.
Although solitary by nature, males may travel together at times. They have overlapping home ranges, and apparently establish relationships through diverse postures, vocalizations, and scents. Thirteen calls have been identified.
Raccoons appear to wash their food; however, the animal is actually kneading and tearing at the food, feeling for matter which should be rejected. Wetting its paws enhances the raccoon’s touch. Its name comes from Indian "arakun," which means “scratches with his hands,” and in the scientific name Procyon lotor, lotor means “to wash.”