companion in the new
Disney movie (POCAHONTAS) is a raccoon (rack-KOON). Actually,
Captain John Smith did play a roll in the naming of this cute carnivore which is native to North and
Central America. In 1612 , he wrote "There is a beast they call Aroughcun", which the Indians prized
for its meat and fur. The name Aroughcun means "he scratches with his hands." The scientific name
for the most common North American raccoon is Procyon lotor. Lotor is Latin for "washer" and the
raccoon has been observed by many to "wash" its food.
There are seven species of raccoons in the new world, five live on tropical islands, one in the Yucatan
and our friend Aroughcun. Although they are classified carnivores (meat eaters) they really are
omnivorous,eating fish, frogs, clams, crayfish, termites, ant larvae, mice, insects and fruit, berries, nuts
and vegetables and dog and cat food if they are living in the "city." Usually, they live in forests,
marshes, plains but they also thrive in urban areas. In the wild they live approximately 6 years and the
females give birth to 1-7 young after a 2 month long pregnancy. The adults usually weigh about 20-25
pounds with the males larger than the females. They do not hibernate but will become dormant in the
cold northern winters.
The raccoons have a reputation for clever nighttime raids on garbage cans and because of their
almost hand-like front paws with their long, thin mobile fingers they can learn to open cans, latches,
turn on faucets and get into all kinds of fun and trouble. They use these hands to catch their food and
often appear to wash their food before eating it and wash their hands, but scientists aren't sure what
this behavior really means. Most raccoons lead solitary lives but they can group together for food or
shelter and the young stay with their mothers through the summer and into fall.
Raccoons can carry some diseases which can be transmitted to humans and pets so it is unwise to
pet or touch wild raccoons or to encourage them to eat in your pets food bowl. Usually they are shy
One captive raccoon lived to be at least 21 years old, some in the wild may be 13-16 years old.
Generally, the northern animals are bigger than the southern ones, males bigger than females, one male was recorded as weighing 62 pounds.
Most in one place?
- Usually these animals are solitary, or a few share one den, but a Minnesota trapper entered an old cabin in the winter to behold 23 pairs of eyes staring back at him.
- Lesser panda of Asia, ringtails and cacomistles of North America, coatis and coatimundis of the Americas, mountain coati of South America, kinkajou of Central America and the olingos of Central and South America.
Places named after the raccoon:
- Raccoon, Indiana
- Raccoon River, Iowa
- Raccoon Cay, Bahamas
- Raccoon Creek, New Jersey
- Raccoon Point, Louisiana
- Racoon (sic) Lake, North West Territory, Canada (yes, that is the spelling)
To Go To Dr.Sue's Raccoon News Update
If you would like to see more information, pictures, and fun facts about raccoons on the World Wide Web,
please consider visiting THE WORLD WIDE RACCOON WEB at
Cornell University. This is a well designed Web site and a special treat for those netsurfing with the latest version of NETSCAPE.