Raccoons

Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Resources

Figure 1. Raccoon (Procyon lotor).  
Photo in public domain. 

Identification

Legal Status

Raccoons are protected fur-bearers in most states with seasons established for running, hunting, and trapping. Most states have provisions for landowners to control fur-bearers that are damaging their property. Check with your state wildlife agency before using any lethal control methods. 

Physical Description

Raccoons are distinctively marked, with a prominent black “mask” over the eyes and a heavily furred, ringed tail. The coloring is grizzled salt-and-pepper gray and black above, although some individuals are strongly washed with yellow. Raccoons from prairie areas of the western Great Plains are paler in color than those from eastern portions of the region. Raccoons are stocky mammals about 2 to 3 feet long and typically weigh 10 to 30 pounds. 

Species Range

Raccoons are found throughout the US, with the exception of the higher elevations of mountainous regions and some areas of the arid Southwest (Figure 2). Raccoons are more common in the wooded eastern portions of the US than in the more arid western plains. 

Figure 2. Distribution of raccoons in North America. Image by PCWD. 

Voice and Sounds

Raccoons emit several sounds including chirps, coos, chatter, distress calls, purrs, and complaints. Visit the website to listen to audio samples.  

Tracks and Signs

Raccoons usually leave behind plenty of signs of their presence. Tracks (Figure 3) often turn to smudges when the animals climb up downspouts. Latrines (where raccoons regularly defecate Figure 4), tend to be in areas open to the sky such as roofs, sand boxes, and fallen trees.  

Figure 3. Five long rear toes and “hand-like” front prints are characteristic of raccoon tracks. The “heel” of the hind foot seldom shows, except in soft mud or sand. Image by PCWD.
Figure 4. Latrine of a raccoon.  
Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel.