Procyon lotor
(Linnaeus, 1758)

prO-sI-on lO-ter

An adult Raccoon.

The Raccoon is a stocky, short-legged, medium-sized carnivore. Its most diagnostic features are its black or brown "bandit" facial mask set off by patches of white fur, and its tail with 5 to 7 brown or black rings alternating with lighter rings. The pelage is grizzled, ranging from iron gray to black tinged with brown or red. The venter has gray or black guard hairs that barely conceal the brownish underfur. Like the Ringtail, the Raccoon is semi-plantigrade to plantigrade and can use its hands to grasp objects. Adults may attain the following dimensions: total length 650-950 mm; length of tail 200-288 mm; length of hind foot 105-147 mm; length of ear 48-69 mm; weight usually 13-25 pounds but sometimes much larger (the record is 62 pounds).

The only other species in Kansas with alternating bands of color on the tail is the Ringtail. The Raccoon is much larger, stockier, and less agile than the Ringtail, and its tail is much shorter relative to length of head and body.

The distribution of the raccoon extends from southern Canada throughout the United States (except higher elevations on mountain ranges) and southward through Mexico and Central America to the Panama Canal. The species did not occur in western Kansas until the mid- to late- 1800s. It evidently dispersed as far west as Finney, Greeley, Hamilton, Kearny, Rawlins, Scott, Seward, Sherman, and Stanton counties after 1875. It arrived in Cheyenne, Thomas, and Wichita counties after 1885, and in Wallace County after 1910. It had not been seen yet in Grant, Haskell, Logan, Morton, and Stevens counties by 1939. The Raccoon now occurs in every county in Kansas. It prefers forest or forest edge habitats, and in the West it is most common in riparian situations. 

The earliest known Procyon is from the late Pliocene of North America. Raccoons have been found in numerous Pleistocene and Holocene deposits from North America. 

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
Open icons are questionable records; Click on a marker to view details.
  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 378 Total Records 
  • 267 Museum Vouchers 
  • 111 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (1); Atchison (10); Barber (6); Barton (4); Bourbon (1); Butler (2); Chase (3); Chautauqua (2); Cherokee (7); Cheyenne (3); Clay (1); Cloud (5); Coffey (2); Comanche (4); Cowley (5); Crawford (5); Dickinson (5); Douglas (70); Edwards (3); Ellis (27); Ellsworth (4); Finney (1); Franklin (5); Geary (6); Graham (1); Greenwood (6); Hodgeman (2); Jefferson (10); Jewell (1); Johnson (1); Kearney (2); Kiowa (1); Labette (4); Lincoln (3); Linn (4); Logan (2); Lyon (5); Marshall (2); McPherson (3); Meade (14); Miami (4); Mitchell (1); Montgomery (2); Morton (1); Nemaha (2); Ness (7); Osage (1); Osborne (4); Ottawa (1); Pawnee (4); Phillips (12); Pottawatomie (2); Pratt (1); Reno (5); Republic (1); Rice (2); Riley (2); Rooks (2); Rush (5); Russell (5); Saline (18); Scott (8); Sedgwick (2); Seward (2); Shawnee (6); Sheridan (1); Smith (1); Stafford (5); Sumner (2); Thomas (2); Trego (6); Unknown (9); Wabaunsee (2); Washington (1); Wilson (4); Woodson (1);

Natural History:
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. However, contrary to old literature on the subject, raccoons do not hibernate. In wooded areas, dens usually are located in a hollow tree or log. In areas with no suitable trees, raccoons may dig burrows or den in caves, mines, or beneath outbuildings or haystacks. A Raccoon may have several dens located in a variety of situations. Raccoons have a limbering gait, rarely faster than 15 miles per hour. Family groups may live together throughout the year (not just during the nesting season). They are good climbers and swimmers, and they often (but certainly not always) dip food in water before eating.

The Raccoon is omnivorous, feeding on whatever plant or animal food is readily available. In lowland areas the diet emphasizes animals, whereas in upland areas more plants are eaten. the most important animal foods are insects, crayfish, mollusks, and small vertebrates. Favored plant foods are fruits, nuts, and grain. Young raccoons may be preyed upon by Great Horned Owls and Coyotes, but adult Raccoons have few enemies other than man. Although adult Raccoons prefer flight over fight, they are strong and ferocious fighters when cornered and can drive off all but the most determined Coyotes or dogs. Man is the primary source of mortality, resulting from trapping, hunting, and motorized vehicles. More than one million Raccoons are killed each year for their furs or meat. Other important sources of mortality are starvation during times of food shortage and disease. Diseases that afflict Raccoons include encephalitis, canine distemper, leptospirosis, rabies, Chagas' disease, pneumonia, pleurisy, and tularemia.

In Kansas, Raccoons breed from December to June, with a peak in February. Gestation lasts 66-65 days, and from 1 to 7 (usually 3 or 4) young are born are born blind and furred typically in late April or early May. 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 open their eyes in about twenty days. By eight weeks the young are approximately one-third grown, and they 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 14 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.

Longevity in the wild rarely exceeds 5 years although there are records of animals older than 12 years. Longevity in captivity may exceed 17 years. 

Occurrence Activity:
The subspecies of raccoon that occurs in Kansas is Procyon lotor hirtus.

1952 Cockrum, E. L. Mammals of Kansas. Univ. Kansas Publ. Mus. Nat. Hist. 7:1-303. ():
1956 Stains, H. J. The raccoon in Kansas. Univ. Kansas Mus. Nat. Hist. Misc. Publ., 10:1-76. ():
1958 Stains, H. J., and R. H. Baker Furbearers in Kansas: a guide to trapping. Univ. Kansas Mus. Nat. Hist. Misc. Publ., 18:1-100. ():
1979 Lotz, J.-H., and S. Anderson Procyon lotor Mammalian Species 119():1-8
1983 Jones, J. K., Jr., D. M. Armstrong, R. S. Hoffmann, and C. Jones University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE. 1-379pp.
1987 Choate, J. R. Post-settlement history of mammals in western Kansas Southwestern Naturalist 32(2):157-168
1994 Fitzgerald, J. F., C. A. Meaney, and D. M. Armstrong University Press of Colorado, Niwot, CO. 1-467pp.
2008 Timm, R. M., G. R. Pisani, J. R. Choate, N. A. Slade, G. A. Kaufman, and D. W. Kaufman http://www.ku.edu/~mammals, . pp.
Account Last Updated:
12/15/2019 11:01:33 AM

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