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Procyon lotor qtl2.jpg

Raccoon ( Procyon lotor )

Order : Predators (Carnivora)
Subordination : Canine (Caniformia)
Superfamily : Marten relatives (Musteloidea)
Family : Small bears (Procyonidae)
Genre : Raccoons ( Procyon )
Type : racoon
Scientific name
Procyon lotor
( Linnaeus , 1758)

The raccoon ( Procyon lotor ), also known as the North American raccoon , once also known as the scaly , is a medium-sized mammal native to North America . Since the middle of the 20th century it has also been represented as a neozoon on the European mainland, in the Caucasus and in Japan , after it escaped from enclosures or was released there. Raccoons are predominantly nocturnal predators and prefer to live in deciduous and mixed forests that are rich in water . Due to their adaptability, they are increasingly living in mountain forests , salt marshes and urban areas.

With a body length between 41 and 71 centimeters and a weight between 3.6 and 9.0 kilograms, the raccoon is the largest member of the small bear family . Typical of the raccoon are the pronounced haptic perception of the front paws and the black face mask. Also to be emphasized is the good memory of the animals, which in experiments were able to remember the solution of a previously set task even after three years. Raccoons are omnivores and their diet is roughly 40 percent plant-based, 33 percent mollusc and 27 percent vertebrate . Raccoons kept in captivity often submerge their food under water, which has been interpreted as "washing", but is very likely an idle act to imitate foraging for food on river or lake banks, where the raccoon groping under stones and other hiding places for crabs or others Looking for food animals.

While the raccoon was once thought of as a loner , there is now evidence that it displays gender-specific social behavior. Related ferries (females) often share a common area; Unrelated males, on the other hand, live together in loose, small groups of up to four animals. As a result, they are able to assert themselves better against strange males and against potential attackers during the mating season . The size of the home ranges varies between 0.03 square kilometers for females in cities and 49.5 square kilometers for males in the prairie . After a gestation period of around 65 days, the female gives birth to two to five young in spring, depending on the local situation. The puppies are then raised by their mother alone until they gradually separate in autumn. Although captive raccoons can live to be over 20 years old, their life expectancy in the wild is only 1.8 to 3.1 years. Hunting and traffic accidents are the two leading causes of death in many areas.



In addition to German, a word is also used in many other languages ​​to designate the raccoon, which is composed of a term for the typical "washing" of food in captivity and the respective word for bear , for example wasbeer Dutch, vaskebjørn Danish, tvättbjörn Swedish , raton laveur in French, orsetto lavatore in Italian, mýval in Czech and Slovak, medviedik čistotný in Slovak and araiguma (洗 熊) in Japanese. The English word for the raccoon, raccoon (occasionally also racoon ), goes back to a word in the Algonquin language that was pronounced by Chief Powhatan and his daughter Pocahontas ahrah-koon-em - other spellings exist - and something like " who rubs, scrubs and scratches with his hands “means. Similarly, the Spanish word mapache, introduced by Spanish colonialists , is derived from the Aztec word mapachitli , which can be translated as "who takes everything into his hands". The colloquial English abbreviation coon is used in words like coonskin for clothes made of raccoon fur and old coon as a self-designation by trappers.

In older German works such as Brehms Tierleben , the now outdated term Schupp can be found next to raccoon . According to the German dictionary of the Brothers Grimm, it comes from the Russian word šúba for "fur".

In the first decades after the raccoon was discovered by the members of Christopher Columbus ' expedition , who was the first person to write a written record of the animal species, taxonomists assumed a relationship to many other animal species, including dogs , cats , badgers and above all the bear . Carl von Linné , the father of modern taxonomy, also assigned raccoons to the genus Ursus , first as Ursus cauda elongata ("long-tailed bear") in the second edition of his Systema Naturae and finally as Ursus lotor ("raccoon") in the tenth Output. In 1780, the German naturalist Gottlieb Conrad Christian Storr assigned raccoons to their own genus with the name Procyon , which translated can mean both “before the dog” and “dog-like”. Due to the raccoon's nocturnal lifestyle, Storr could also have chosen the star Prokyon to give the genus its name.


Based on fossil finds in France and Germany, it is assumed that the first members of the small bear family lived in Europe around 25 million years ago in the late Oligocene . Similar tooth and skull structures suggested that clover bears and martens share a common ancestor, but molecular analysis suggests a closer relationship to the bears. After crossing the Bering Strait at least six million years later, the center of the range of the species occurring at that time was probably in Central America. Coatis ( Nasua and Nasuella ) and raccoons ( Procyon ) may go from a species of the genus before 5.2 to 6.0 million years ago Paranasua forth. This assumption, based on morphological fossil comparisons, contradicts a genetic analysis carried out in 2006, according to which raccoons are more closely related to cat frets . In contrast to the other small bears, such as the crab raccoon ( Procyon cancrivorus ), the ancestors of the raccoon left tropical and subtropical areas and moved further north about 2.5 million years ago, as evidenced by the discovery of fossils from the Middle Pliocene originated and found in the Great Plains has been shown.


Five raccoon species (so-called endemics ) that occur exclusively on small Central American and Caribbean islands were mostly regarded as separate species after their discovery. These are the Bahamas raccoon and the Guadeloupe raccoon , which are very similar to each other, the Tres Marias raccoon , which is larger than average and is characterized by a conspicuously square skull, the Cozumel raccoon , which only three to weighs four kilograms and has particularly small teeth, and the extinct Barbados raccoon . However, morphological and genetic studies carried out in 1999, 2003 and 2005 led to the fact that all of these so-called island raccoons, with the exception of the Cozumel raccoon ( Procyon pygmaeus ), were listed in the third edition of the zoological standard work Mammal Species of the World (2005) Subspecies of the (North American) raccoon were listed.

The four smallest subspecies, including Procyon lotor marinus , each with an average weight of 1.8 to 2.7 kilograms, live along the south coast of Florida and the neighboring islands. Most of the other 15 subspecies differ only slightly from one another in terms of coat color, size or other physical characteristics. The two most common subspecies are Procyon lotor lotor and Procyon lotor hirtus . Like the larger Procyon lotor hirtus , Procyon lotor lotor also has a comparatively dark, long-haired coat. Procyon lotor lotor occurs in all US states and Canadian provinces north of South Carolina and Tennessee . The adjacent distribution area of Procyon lotor hirtus includes all US states and Canadian provinces north of Louisiana , Texas and New Mexico .

Features of the raccoon


Underside of the front paw
Penis bones

Its body length is between 41 and 71 centimeters, not counting the bushy tail between 19.2 and 40.5 centimeters long , which is usually not significantly longer than 25 centimeters. The shoulder height is between 22.8 and 30.4 centimeters. The body weight of adult raccoons differs between 1.8 and 13.6 kilograms, depending on the area of ​​distribution and the time of year, with common values ​​between 3.6 and 9.0 kilograms. The smallest individuals can be found on the south coast of Florida, the largest according to Bergmann's rule on the northern limit of the range. Male specimens are typically 15 to 20 percent heavier than females. At the beginning of winter, raccoons can weigh more than twice as much as in spring due to the eaten winter fat . The heaviest raccoon living in the wild weighed 28.4 kilograms, which is by far the highest weight of a small bear ever measured.

The characteristic facial drawing of the raccoon with the black colored face mask around the eyes, which contrasts sharply with the surrounding white fur , is similar to that of the raccoon dog . The slightly rounded ears are also surrounded by white fur. It is assumed that raccoons can more quickly grasp the facial expression and posture of conspecifics due to the distinctive facial drawing in conjunction with the light-dark striped tail. The dark mask could also reduce glare and thereby improve night vision. On the rest of the body, the long and water-repellent upper fur is colored in various gray and, to a lesser extent, brown tones. Raccoons with very dark fur are mainly represented in the German population, as the founding population included individual animals with such fur patterns. The dense undercoat, which makes up almost 90 percent of the total number of hair, protects the animals from the cold and consists of 2.0 to 3.0 centimeters long hair.

Skull ( Museum Wiesbaden Collection )

Raccoons, generally classified as sole walkers , can stand on their hind legs and examine objects with their front paws . Because raccoons have short legs in relation to their stocky torso, they are unable to run fast or jump far. Their top speed over short distances is 16 to 24 kilometers per hour. Raccoons can swim at an average speed of 3 miles per hour and can stay in the water for several hours. To climb down a tree head first, an unusual skill for a mammal of this size, raccoons twist their hind paws until they point back. Raccoons can both sweat and pant to regulate their body heat . Your dentition with the tooth formula 3142/3142 is composed of 40 teeth, which are adapted to your way of life as an omnivore . The chewing surface of the molars is not as wide as that of pure herbivores , nor are the incisors as sharp and pointed as that of pure carnivores . The male penis bone is about ten centimeters long and strongly curved at the front end. Seven of the 13 known vocalizations are used in communication between mother and young animals, including the birdlike chirping of newborns.

Sensory perception

The most important sense for the raccoon is the sense of touch . The "hypersensitive" front paws are protected by a thin horny layer that softens under water. The five free-standing fingers are also unusual for a predator , although the mobility of the front paws cannot be compared to that of the hands of primates due to the non- opposable thumb . Almost two thirds of the area of ​​the cerebral cortex responsible for sensory perception specializes in the interpretation of tactile stimuli, more than any other animal species examined. With the whiskers over the sharp, non-retractable claws , raccoons can recognize objects before they are touched. It is unknown why tactile perception is not negatively affected when a raccoon stands in water that is less than ten degrees Celsius for hours.

It is believed that raccoons are color-blind or at least have difficulty distinguishing colors , with green light in particular being perceived well. Although the tapetum lucidum behind the retina , which acts as a residual light intensifier, enables them to see well in twilight and the visual acuity range of eleven diopters is comparable to that of humans, visual perception is of secondary importance for raccoons. In addition to orientation in the dark, the sense of smell is especially important when communicating with fellow dogs. Urine, feces and glandular secretions , which are mostly distributed with the anal gland , are used as scent marks . With their hearing , the hearing limit of which is 50 to 85 kHz, raccoons are able to perceive very low noises, such as those caused by earthworms buried in the ground .

Mental faculties

Of the few studies that have been done on the raccoon's mental abilities, most are based on his tactile perception. In an experiment by behavioral scientist HB Davis in 1908, the raccoons investigated succeeded in opening eleven of 13 complex locks with fewer than ten attempts and then adjusting their procedure after the locks were rearranged or turned upside down. Davis concluded that they understood the abstract principle behind the locking mechanisms and that their learning pace matched that of rhesus monkeys . Investigations in 1963, 1973, 1975 and 1992 tested the memory of raccoons and found that after three years they could still remember the solution to a previously set task. In 1992, for example, B. Pohl showed that three years after the brief initial training phase, raccoons could immediately differentiate between the same and different symbols. Stanislas Dehaene reports in his book The Sense of Numbers that raccoons can distinguish containers that contain two or four grapes from those that contain three.

Way of life

Social behavior

Raccoons eating together

Two studies conducted in the 1990s by the behavioral researchers Stanley D. Gehre and Ulf Hohmann showed that, contrary to earlier assumptions, raccoons do not normally live solitary , but rather show gender-specific social behavior. Females that are related to one another live in a so-called fission-fusion society , which means that they share a home area and occasionally meet at shared feeding places or sleeping places. Males that are not related to each other live together in loose male coalitions in order to be able to assert themselves against strange male dogs during the mating season or other potential attackers. Such a group usually consists of no more than four individuals. Because adult males can show aggressive behavior towards unrelated cubs, mothers avoid other raccoons until their cubs are big enough to be able to defend themselves. Due to these three different ways of life, the social structure of the raccoon is also referred to by Hohmann as a three-class society . Samuel I. Zeveloff, professor of zoology at Weber State University and author of the monograph Raccoons: A Natural History ( Raccoons: A Natural History ) is more cautious in his portrayal of the state of research and points out that at least the females lived most of the time solitary and , having referred to a 1978 study by Erik K. Fritzell in North Dakota , as did males in areas with low population densities .

If there is sufficient food supply, raccoons' areas of activity can overlap significantly without any arguments. Raccoons meet at assembly points or leave messages in the form of scented tags to exchange information about rich feeding places or well-protected sleeping places. Raccoons also meet to eat, sleep and play together.


Raccoon foraging on the lake shore

Raccoons are omnivores , and their diet is roughly 40 percent invertebrates , 33 percent plant-based, and 27 percent vertebrate animals . According to the zoologist Samuel I. Zeveloff, the raccoon is one of the "most omnivorous animals in the world". While raccoons mainly eat insects , worms , beetles and other animals that are available at the time in the spring , they prefer high-calorie, plant-based foods such as fruit and nuts in the autumn to eat enough winter fat. Of the vertebrates, fish and amphibians , such as frogs, toads, and salamanders, are the most common prey . Contrary to popular belief, raccoons only occasionally eat animal species that are difficult to hunt, such as birds and small mammals , shrews or dormice . In Brandenburg, the North American petty bear decimates the last populations of the European pond turtle : Where it occurs, almost every second reptile shows serious injuries. With large food choices, raccoons can develop strong individual preferences for certain foods. In contrast, they can hardly find any food in winter and have to fast if the frost persists.

Raccoons often “wash” their food in captivity

"Washing" the food

Raccoons carefully feel food and other objects with their front paws to get an idea of ​​them and remove unwanted parts. If the protective cornea is softened under water, its sensitivity increases. While raccoons do not take food found on land in the wild to a watering hole in order to “wash” it there before consumption, this behavior can often be observed in animals kept in captivity. The French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon (1707–1788) still believed that raccoons did not have sufficient salivary glands to moisten the food, which is definitely wrong. Raccoons kept in captivity often “wash” their food when a watering hole with a bottom similar to a river bed is no more than three meters away. It is widely believed that "washing" food is an idle act designed to mimic bank foraging for small creatures. The observation that aquatic foods are “washed” more frequently supports this theory. The cleaning of contaminated food, on the other hand, does not seem to play a major role. On the other hand, it is disputed whether even wild raccoons tend to soften very dry food underwater on occasion.


Apart from urbanized animals, mixed and deciduous forests rich in water with a high proportion of oak are the preferred habitat of raccoons. Here they find enough food and shelter. In case of danger, they take refuge in a tree; therefore they avoid open terrain. Raccoons are good swimmers and prefer to live near rivers or other bodies of water, where they find most of their animal food. In America, due to its adaptability, raccoons are increasingly able to colonize habitats that are considered unsuitable for them, such as steppes or cold areas further north.

Sleeping places

Raccoons are good climbers
Raccoons are often victims of nocturnal traffic accidents, like here at Eußenheim in Bavaria

Raccoons are crepuscular and nocturnal animals, which is the main reason they are rarely seen. They are skilled climbers and prefer to sleep in the tree hollows of old oak trees during the day. If a raccoon is out of range of one of his preferred main sleeping areas, he can alternatively move to old stone quarries , in the thick undergrowth or in badger burrows . In the northern areas of its range, the raccoon hibernates during which it greatly reduces its activities.


Four raccoon cubs in a tree hole
Raccoon puppy (around eight weeks old)

The raccoons usually mate in February, so the rearing of the pups does not coincide with the beginning of next winter. If a female does not conceive or loses her young prematurely, she will sometimes be ready to conceive again in May or June. During the mating season, the males roam restlessly in their home areas and woo the females who come together at some assembly points, whose three to four-day conception periods coincide. The subsequent pairing extends over several nights, during which intensive foreplay, the actual act and a subsequent break alternate. Most females can only be mated by one male.

In order to compensate for a high mortality rate (e.g. caused by hunting), the proportion of pregnant females increases sharply. While the total population remains more or less stable, the average age is falling rapidly. In this respect, trying to drive raccoons out of an area that is a favorable habitat for them by increasing their hunting almost always proves to be ineffective. Even if this were to succeed as an exception, other raccoons would soon follow suit into the territories that would become free.

Development of the young

After about 65 days of gestation , the female, living alone again after mating, gives birth to an average of 3 young in spring. The puppies are blind at birth and covered with a yellowish fluff. The birth weight of the ten centimeter tall puppies is 65 to 75 grams. During the first month of life, the puppies do not consume solid food, but are exclusively nursed by their mother. They open their eyes for the first time after two to three weeks. At the age of six to nine weeks, the boys, which at this point weigh about one kilogram, leave the litter box for the first time, but are nursed for one to two months after that with decreasing intensity. Gradual separation from the mother takes place in autumn. While the females reach sexual maturity before the start of the next main mating season, this is only the case with some of the males. While many female offspring stay close to their mother for life, the young males seek out more distant territory, which is to be understood as instinctive behavior to avoid inbreeding .

Life expectancy

Like captive animals, wild raccoons can live to be 16 years and older, but most live only a few years. It's not uncommon for only half of the kittens born in a year to survive by their first birthday. Then the annual death rate drops to 10 to 30 percent. One of the most common natural causes of death for young raccoons, apart from the death of their mother in the first few weeks of life, is starvation during the first winter, especially when it is particularly cold and long. The leading natural cause of death in North America is distemper , an often epidemic disease that can kill a large proportion of raccoons living in an area. In Germany the fox mange is assumed to be an important cause of death. In areas with heavy traffic and areas where raccoons are hunted across the board , these two causes of death can account for up to 90 percent of all adult raccoon deaths. Natural predators such as bobcats , coyotes and other predators usually do not play a crucial role as a cause of death, especially since larger predators have been exterminated by humans in many areas. All in all, the life expectancy of wild raccoons is therefore only 1.8 to 3.1 years, depending on local conditions in terms of traffic volume, hunting pressure and extreme weather conditions.

Distribution area

Spread in America

Worldwide distribution of the raccoon
  • original home
  • brought in
  • The original range of the raccoon stretches from Panama to Mexico and almost all of the USA to southern Canada . The only exceptions are desert areas and the high mountains of the Rocky Mountains .

    Distribution in Europe

    All raccoons found in Europe go back to animals that escaped or were abandoned from fur farms and enclosures in the 20th century. As such refugees from captivity they belong to the group of neozoa . Today there are stable raccoon populations in large parts of Germany and in areas of neighboring countries. Further occurrences exist in the south of Belarus , the Caucasus and in the north of France , where some specimens were released by US soldiers near Laon in 1966 .

    Distribution of raccoons in Germany: Raccoons that were hunted or found dead by hunters in the hunting years 2000/01, 01/02 and 02/03 in the German districts

    The most important event for the spread of raccoons in Europe was the release of two pairs of raccoons on April 12, 1934 on the Hessian Edersee . The four raccoons were released by the forester Wilhelm Freiherr Sittich von Berlepsch at the request of the owner, the poultry farmer Rolf Haag, even before he received written approval from the Prussian State Hunting Office two weeks later in order to "enrich the local fauna". There had been attempts to settle there before, but only this one was successful. The area around the Edersee represented an almost optimal habitat for the released raccoons, so that the further spreading from this center could take place quickly and permanently. At the beginning of the 1960s, the population had increased to more than 600 animals and was controlled by the state as a pest in orchards and forests in Germany.

    The outbreak of about two dozen raccoons from a fur farm in Wolfshagen (now part of Altlandsberg ) near Strausberg in Brandenburg in 1945 led to a further distribution area. The resulting population can still be distinguished genetically and parasitologically from the West German population . While over 70 percent of the raccoons in the Central German population are infected with the raccoon roundworm, no raccoon from the Brandenburg area has been diagnosed with roundworm infection. An infection rate of 39 percent was measured in Saxony-Anhalt , which is why this area seems to play an important role as the merging area of ​​the two large populations.

    For a long time, it was assumed that the few raccoons released on the Edersee and Wolfshagen had a founding effect that resulted in a genetic bottleneck , which, however, did not have any negative effects on the health of the raccoon population. However, a 2015 study on the genetics of wild raccoons in Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg came to the conclusion that there must have been at least two additional, independent events in which raccoons were released in Germany and were able to build their own populations. The study also concluded that individual animals were released that genetically enriched the existing populations, so that one cannot speak of a genetically impoverished population in Germany. The study considers at least six independent subpopulations likely, each consisting of 7 to 21 founder animals, so that the total number of founder animals was at least 77.

    German raccoon hunting route

    The number of raccoons in Germany was estimated at 285 animals in 1956, around 20,000 animals in 1970 and a low to medium six-digit number in 2005.

    67,700 raccoons were killed in Germany in the 2010/11 hunting season. In the 1990s this number was only 400 animals. In 2013 the mark of 100,000 hunted animals was exceeded for the first time. In the 2015/16 hunting year, the German hunting range was 128,100 animals, 60 percent of which came from the federal states of Hesse, Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt. During the same period only 21 raccoons were shot in Austria and only one in Switzerland.

    The raccoon as a neozoon

    The raccoon is one of the most successful neozoa on the European continent and has spread over large parts of Germany within a few decades. In addition to many hunters and foresters, some nature conservationists are of the opinion that the uncontrolled expansion has negative effects on the ecosystem of German forests and therefore demand hunting. The main argument put forward is that raccoons displace native predators and protected bird species. The zoologists Frank-Uwe Michler and Ulf Hohmann contradict this view. Hohmann points out that the lack of natural enemies in Europe alone does not justify intensive hunting, as these did not play a role as a major cause of death in the North American area of ​​distribution.

    For a long time, little was known about the extent of predation by raccoons and their negative influence on bird populations. It was certain that by occupying nesting trees and nesting places, it could displace native birds, such as the gray heron, during the breeding season. Studies published in the last few years show the negative impact on the populations of various bird species. In Saxony-Anhalt , breeding losses of the species red kite , common swift , wryneck and pied flycatcher were found to have an impact on the population . In 2012 and 2013 in the Steckby-Lödderitz Forest , more than 20 percent of the pied flycatcher broods in nesting boxes were predated by raccoons. Comprehensive data on predation are now also available for the Harz and its northern foreland. The raccoon has also had negative effects on starling, black stork, eagle owl and various species of birds of prey. In colony breeders like gray herons and cormorants, the prolonged presence of raccoons even leads to the abandonment of large breeding colonies. The broods of cave breeders and nest breeders are not only endangered by predation, but often do not even come about because larger tree hollows and clumps are occupied by raccoons as sleeping and resting places.

    Internationally, the new animal citizen is viewed with suspicion: The EU project DAISIE lists neozoa such as raccoon dogs, mink and raccoons among the 100 worst invasive species; the Bern Convention recommends that these species be strictly controlled as they endanger biological diversity. Its adaptability with regard to food and living space enables it to conquer previously unoccupied niches within a very short time. The raccoon has almost doubled its range across Germany in seven years and is now found in every second hunting ground. The population densities reported in the press are sometimes said to be more than ten times higher than those actually measured.

    Michler, however, claims that there is no evidence that a high population density has negative effects on the biodiversity of an area. Therefore, it is “pure speculation” and devoid of “any seriousness” if, without prior scientific investigation, a causal connection between raccoon occurrences and the population decline of another species in an area is established. For this reason, he rejects the fight against raccoons according to the Bern Biodiversity Convention , as this presupposes particularly negative effects of a neozoon on an ecosystem. In contrast, a more consistent approach than usual would be required to protect local bird populations if necessary, which, however, requires a high level of personnel and financial expenditure.

    Hohmann and Michler point out animal protection violations in raccoon hunting. For example, in a press release by Michler's "Raccoon Project" to investigate raccoon occurrence in the Müritz National Park, the use of castings in areas with raccoon occurrences is condemned as "deliberate cruelty to animals", since the ingestion of the bait with the front paws does not make any difference to the effect Leghold traps exist. In Germany, manslaughter traps may only be set up in connection with a catchment bunker. The entrance has a small diameter and is designed in such a way that people cannot get to the trap. Missing catches are also avoided in this way. Raccoons are hunted down with live traps in accordance with animal welfare. For animal welfare reasons, live traps must be checked at least once a day. The German Hunting Association has already successfully tested common dead-trapping devices and live-trap traps according to the standard for humane trapping. The basis is the AIHTS agreement. In order to be able to intervene efficiently in increasing raccoon populations, the approval of fishing gear certified in accordance with the AIHTS agreement from the countries of origin that have the greatest experience in controlling raccoons should be sought.

    Urbanized raccoons

    Because of its adaptability, it is the Kulturfolger raccoon managed to take advantage of urban areas as habitat. The first reports of raccoons living in urban areas date back to the 1920s in a suburb of Cincinnati , Ohio . Raccoons have been found in large numbers in North American metropolises such as Washington, DC , Chicago and Toronto since the 1950s . Since the 1960s, Kassel has housed the first and densest raccoon population in Europe in a large urban area with around 50 to 150 animals per square kilometer; a number comparable to that found in urban habitats in North America. High population densities are also reported from other localities in northern Hesse and southern Lower Saxony . In many other cities like Berlin , animals are now part of the fauna. The size of the action areas of urbanized raccoons is reduced to about 0.03 to 0.38 square kilometers for females and 0.08 to 0.79 square kilometers for males. In small towns and suburbs, many raccoons sleep in the nearby forest after foraging in the settlement area. Fruits and insects in gardens and leftovers in trash are readily available sources of food. There are also a large number of additional sleeping and throwing places such as tree hollows in old garden trees, garden sheds, garages, abandoned houses and attics. The number of raccoons sleeping in houses varies from 15 percent in Washington DC (1991) to 43 percent in Kassel (2003).

    Raccoon and human


    Raccoon on the roof of a residential building in Albertshausen, Northern Hesse
    Raccoon inspects a ground feeding station for songbirds set up close to the house

    The increasing number of raccoons in human settlement has led to very different reactions, ranging from total rejection to regular feeding of the animals. Most authorities and some wildlife experts warn against feeding wild animals because it would make them more intrusive or dependent on humans as a source of food. Other wildlife experts question this and provide advice on feeding wild animals in their books. A lack of fear of people is very likely not a sign of rabies, but an adaptation of the behavior of the animals that have lived in the city for many generations.

    While emptied rubbish bins and harvested fruit trees are mostly seen as a nuisance by homeowners, repairing damage caused by raccoons when using attics as a sleeping place can cost several thousand euros. Catching or killing individual animals usually does not solve the problems, as suitable sleeping places are either known to several raccoons or will soon be rediscovered. Instead, preventive measures - like pruning branches - that prevent raccoons from getting into the building in the first place are much more effective and cheaper. In addition, the placement of odors that will deter raccoons is recommended. Another alternative is to hang up bags of dog hair or mothballs.

    Often it is not possible to drive raccoons permanently out of an area that is a suitable habitat for them through intensive hunting, as they can increase their reproduction rate up to a certain limit or animals migrate from the surrounding area to the free roaming areas. Young males also claim smaller grazing areas than older ones, which leads to an increase in population density. The cost of removing all raccoons from a larger area, even temporarily, usually exceeds the cost of the damage they cause many times over.

    The raccoon was added to the “ List of Unwanted Species ” for the European Union in 2016.

    Raccoons as carriers of disease

    Raccoon roundworm larvae

    The increased contact between raccoons and humans results in problems with the transmission of diseases. Unlike in its American homeland, the raccoon in Europe has a very limited spectrum of parasites . While rabies is a serious danger in America, it has only been found sporadically in Europe. Only one raccoon parasite is currently considered to be a potentially dangerous pathogen for humans, namely the raccoon roundworm , which lives in the small intestine of the animals. The infection occurs through the oral ingestion of roundworm eggs from the faeces of the animals, for example when cleaning latrines . Because humans are a false host for the roundworm , diseases are very rare.


    The raccoon is occasionally kept as a pet , especially in the United States , but many experts advise against this, as it is not a domesticated species and can behave unpredictably and aggressively. In many American states it is therefore forbidden to keep raccoons unless, as in Germany, at least a permit to keep exotic pets is required. In the state of Berlin, feeding and keeping raccoons is generally prohibited under state law. In the US, raccoons kept as pets that have bitten a human are regularly killed for rabies screening.


    Many sexually mature raccoons behave aggressively during the mating season and bite suddenly. A castration in the fifth or sixth month of life significantly reduces the likelihood that such behaviors occur. If they don't exercise enough or are poorly fed, raccoons can become obese or develop behavioral disorders. With regard to the latest research results on the social behavior of the raccoon, some keepers are now of the opinion that they should not be kept alone if possible so that they do not become lonely.

    Fur processing

    Motorist's coat made of raccoon fur, USA 1906

    The raccoon fur is an essential part of fur clothing and fur accessories. At the beginning of the 20th century, so many raccoons were hunted for fur-making in North America that their numbers fell significantly in some areas. In the second half of the 1920s, it was therefore bred for the first time on a larger scale, but this was soon abandoned in both North America and Europe. After all, in 1934 there were 228 farms in Germany that bred raccoons, but with a total of only 1583 animals. After long-haired pelts went out of fashion at the beginning of the 1940s and prices fell, almost exclusively wild animal skins are still on the market today. In the fur trade, raccoon fur is offered at tobacco auctions with the misleading name Finnraccoon or Chinese Raccoon (raccoon = English raccoon) , probably because of its raccoon- like appearance ; confusion occasionally occurs here. Raccoon skins are made into coats, jackets or hats, for example also into the typical trapper hats.

    The raccoon in mythology and culture

    In Indian mythology , the raccoon was the subject of numerous legends . Stories like “ How raccoons catch so many crayfish ” (German: “How raccoons catch so many crabs ”) by the Tuscarora tribe revolved around their extraordinary foraging skills. In other stories, like the red fox in Central European sagas, the raccoon played the role of the trickster who outsmarted other animals such as coyotes and wolves . Among other things, the Dakota Sioux believed that the raccoon possessed magical powers because of its face mask, which was similar to the face paint they wear in rituals . The Aztecs attributed supernatural abilities primarily to females. The English name of the raccoon, "Raccoon", is derived from the word "Aroughcun" or "Ahrah-koon-em", which the Algonquin gave to the animal, which means something like "he who scratches his hands".

    There are some autobiographical novels written for children by western authors about living with a raccoon. The best known work is Sterling Norths Rascal, the Raccoon , in which he tells how he raised a raccoon as a child during the First World War . In recent years, anthropomorphic raccoons have played leading roles in the cartoon series The Raccoons , the animated film Ab durch die Hecke , the video game series Sly Raccoon , and the comic and movie hero "Rocket Raccoon".

    The raccoon Roni was the official mascot of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid .


    In the stamp series Tierkinder gave German Post AG with the Inception 2019, a postage stamp in January 2 nominal value of 90 euro cents out. The stamp shows two young raccoons, designed by graphic artists Nicole Elsenbach from Hückeswagen and Frank Fienbork from Utting am Ammersee .


    Web links

    Commons : Raccoon ( Procyon lotor )  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
    Wiktionary: Raccoon  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

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    This article was added to the list of excellent articles on September 18, 2005 in this version .