Biology and behavior


Raccoons are small bears and belong to the family of the procyonidae. This predator can be found from Southern Canada to Northern South America. In the thirties, raccoons were set free in Europe. Together with those animals that escaped from fur farms, new populations were founded, so that today, raccoons can be found throughout Northern Europe. Raccoons are nest robbers and therefore considered an unpleasant addition to the domestic fauna.


The raccoon’s most conspicuous characteristic is its black eye mask as well as its bushy tail, with 4 to 10 black rings. Thanks to its flexible front paws and its excellent sense of touch, comparable to that of human hands, raccoons are able to find food even in muddy, ice-cold water or in earth- and treeholes. The raccoon has a compact body and weighs between 5 and 10 kg. Males are usually somewhat heavier. These small bears grow to a shoulder height of 25 – 35 cm and a length of 50 – 70 cm. Their bushy tails are 20 – 25 cm long and can account for up to 50% of their overall length. The color of their dense fur can vary from grey to reddish-brown to yellowish-brown – depending on their habitat. Raccoons are nocturnal animals that see very well in the dark and have an excellent sense of smell. Raccoons can reach up to 16 years of age. Most raccoons, however, hardly grow older than 3 years. The most frequent causes of death are trapping, road traffic and malnutrition. Coyotes, wolves and large birds of prey are enemies of raccoons.


Raccoons preferably live in deciduous and mixed forests, with old trees, as well as in the proximity of water. They eat everything and are highly adaptable, so that they can often be found close to farms, on the outskirts of towns, and even in towns. Thanks to these abilities, raccoon numbers have increased significantly – even though their natural habitat has shrunk in size and continues to shrink. In forests, these small nocturnal bears spend the day in tree trunks or dens vacated by other animals. In the proximity of humans, they can often be found in deserted buildings, stables, garages, and garden sheds, where they seek shelter from their enemies. If winters are very cold, raccoons will sleep for long periods of time. They do not, however, actually hibernate.


Because they usually walk in an unhurried manner, raccoons appear to be clumsy. However, they are capable of running quickly and reaching speeds of up to 25 km/h. They never wander farther than absolutely necessary, as long as they find sufficient food or do not need a mate. Raccoons are agile climbers who can jump down to the ground from heights of up to 12 m with ease. They are good swimmers and omnivores. Mainly, they feed on fruit, berries and nuts but they also eat worms, insects, crabs, clams, small rodents, frogs, and bird eggs. To the displeasure of farmers, raccoons also like to feed on maize, watermelons and other agricultural products. In human settlements, these clever omnivores also feed on household waste.


Raccoons are loners, although the female animals do maintain social contacts. If sufficient food is available (e.g. household waste), it is possible that fairly large raccoon colonies will form. During mating season, the raccoon sometimes live together as pairs for a short period of time. In the Northern regions of the world, mating season is from January to March; in the South, it is later on in the year. As a rule, the female will have 3 to 4 young a year. The young will then remain with the mother animal for a year - even though they are weaned at 2 months and then begin to look for food on their own.


Friendly little rascals

© Mike Wu /

Information on raccoons

    • Find beautiful pictures and video clips on raccoons in free nature here:

    ARKive video - Northern raccoon hunting crayfish in stream