Raccoon (procyon, Storr), a genus of American plantigrade mammals of the bear family, of the section subursinoe. In this genus the size is comparatively small, the body stout, and the tail moderately long, bushy, and not prehensile; the muzzle is pointed, and the end very movable and slightly projecting; the teeth are: incisors 3/3-3/3,canines 1/1-1/1, premolars 4/4-4/4, and molars 2/2-2/2, in all 40, there being one upper true molar on each side less than in the bears. The shape is not unlike that of the badger, though the legs are longer; ears moderate, erect, and covered with hair; head broad behind and flat, with naked and large muffle; whiskers in four principal horizontal series, five or six bristles in each; feet five-toed, with naked soles and no indication of webs; claws curved, not retractile, and sharp; though plantigrade when standing, the gait is rather digitigrade. The common raccoon (P. lotor, Storr) is 22 or 23 in. long, with the tail about a foot additional; the general color is grayish white, the tips of the long hairs black and giving this tint to the back; under surface dark brown; an oblique black patch on the cheeks, continuous with a paler one beneath the jaw, and another behind the ears; the end of muzzle, ears, and posterior part of cheek patch whitish; tail bushy, with the tips and five rings black, and the nearly equal interspaces rusty white; hind feet 4 in. long, dirty white above, the fore feet 2 3/4 in.; mammae six, ventral; there are anal glands which secrete a somewhat offensive fluid.
Some varieties occur nearly black, others are nearly white. The raccoon is found generally over the United States, as far north as lat. 60° in the interior, as high as Newfoundland on the Atlantic, and further north on the Pacific; it is most abundant in the southern states, frequenting retired swamps covered with high trees and well watered. It is an excellent climber, in this way obtaining eggs and young birds; watching the soft-shelled turtle lay her eggs in the sand, it uncovers and devours them; it seizes ducks as they come to the water, and is extremely fond of ripe and juicy corn, as well as of frogs and shell fish. It is not entirely nocturnal, and sometimes visits the corn fields and the poultry yard at midday; it feeds much on an inferior oyster in the southern states, hence called the raccoon oyster; it also eats rabbits, squirrels, and other rodents, fish, nuts, and honey. It has been generally supposed to dip its food in water before eating it, hence its specific name of lotor or washer; but this, which it does not generally do in captivity, according to Bachman, is probably only an occasional habit. It hibernates during the coldest weather in the northern states.
It is shy, and has an acute sense of smell; it brings forth about the month of May, in a nest in a hollow tree, four to six at a time, about the size of half-grown rats, which utter a plaintive infant-like cry. It is a favorite sport of the southern negroes in winter to hunt "coons," driving them to a tree, and then climbing up and shaking them off, or felling the tree to bring them within reach of the dogs; they sell the skin to the hatters, and eat the flesh, which is generally very fat and tender, with a flavor of pig. Many are caught also in traps, and are hunted by torchlight. In captivity it makes a very cunning and interesting pet, being easily tamed so as to follow its master even into the crowded street, ambling along in the manner of a bear, and adroitly picking his pockets of dainties. The crab-eating raccoon (P. cancrivo-rus, Illig.), from Brazil and the northern parts of South America, is longer and more slender than the common species, grayish above shaded with brown and black, and yellowish below; the face is whitish, with a black band surrounding each eye; tail less distinctly annu-lated. Its habits are nearly the same as in the other species, but it is more arboreal; it is equally omnivorous; its flesh is also used as food.
It is found on the seacoast and in the interior, and as far south as Paraguay.
Raccoon (Procyon lotor).