Procyon lotor hirtus Nelson and Goldman

Description:   The raccoon is a stocky, short-legged, medium-sized carnivore. It can be distinguished by: 1) long well-furred tail alternately ringed with five or six black and yellow-gray bands, and tipped with black, 2) triangularly-shaped ears, tipped with white fur grading to gray and, finally, black on the posterior surface, 3) pointed muzzle, white along the sides, and grading to brownish-black along the midline, 4) eyes and cheeks covered by a mask of black fur, 5) two white patches on the forehead, 6) grizzled dorsal fur caused by a mixture of black-tipped white hairs and yellowish gray hairs, 7) ventral surface covered with soft gray underfur and long white guard hairs, 8) feet with smooth, naked soles, and 9) toes equipped with long recurved claws.

Size:   Adults may attain the following dimensions: total length 655-960 mm; tail 200-288 mm hind foot 105-147 mm; ear 30-69 mm; weight 5.2-12 kilograms.

Range and Habitat:   The raccoon is found throughout most of Kansas with the possible exception of the western border of the state. It is more common in the eastern third of Kansas, inhabiting woodlands, and the ecotone between woodland and grassland, especially near water. In the western portion of the state it is frequently found in riparian forests along streams and rivers.

Reproduction:   The raccoon breeds from late January through mid-March. One to seven (usually three or four) young are born blind and furred in April or May, after a gestation period of 63 to 65 days. If the female does not conceive during winter, she may breed again between April and June, and bear young from late June until mid-August. The kits weigh 70 to 85 grams at birth, but grow rapidly. Their eyes open in about twenty days. By eight weeks the young are approximately one-third grown, and are weaned at 10 to 12 weeks. At this time the kits begin to travel with the female during her nightly forays. Their permanent teeth develop at about fourteen weeks. The young either disperse in late autumn or, for litters born late in the year, overwinter with the female in her den and disperse when she breeds the following spring. The young attain sexual maturity in the spring following their birth.

Habits:   Raccoons are primarily nocturnal, becoming active after sundown, foraging throughout the night and returning to their dens before sunrise. Sometimes individuals will forego foraging altogether, especially during cold weather. activity during the day consists mostly of sunning or wading in water, perhaps to help regulate body temperature. Home ranges, depending upon the quality of the habitat, vary in size from three to 32 square kilometers. Individuals may travel 1500 meters in a single night, but movements of 300-500 meters are more common. Population densities are usually nine to 13 raccoons per square kilometer.

  Dens are usually constructed in a hollow tree or limb, although logs, muskrats dens, or rocky crevices may be used. The den's entrance may be from ground level up to eighteen meters high, though most are four to 12 meters above the ground. The nest is usually 0.3 meters in diameter.

Food:   The raccoon is omnivorous, consuming more plant than animal material, although its diet varies seasonally, geographically, and individually. It is known to eat cherries, chokecherries, grapes, apples, dogwood buds, shoots, acorns, hickory nuts, and walnuts, corn, wheat, oats, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, moths, crayfish, clams, snails, fish, frogs, turtles and small mammals.

Remarks:   Raccoons are primarily forest-dwellers, but have increased in abundance in suburban and urban situations, where they are scavengers of refuse. Although juvenile raccoons are frequently kept as pets, once they reach sexual maturity their behavior may become very unpredictable. Maximum longevity of this mammal is five to six years in the wild, and 10 to 12 years in captivity.

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