By John S. Powers, Area Wildlife Biologist
Raccoons (Procyon lotor), often referred to simply as ‘coons, are widespread and widely recognized animals. Raccoons are found throughout the United States, as far north as central Canada, and as far south as Panama. Their overall brownish coloration; stubby, black banded tails; and the black mask-like marking around their eyes make them pretty much impossible to forget once seen. The raccoon’s distinctive appearance combined with its relatively small size (around 15 lbs. for adults), a somewhat cute, cuddly demeanor, and its often waddling movements have made it a star on both television and the big screen.
While many species of wild animals have struggled to cope with the changes man has brought to the landscape, raccoons are not one of them. Raccoons have not only adapted to man-made changes, but have, in many ways, seemed to embrace them. They have made themselves at home virtually everywhere from the quiet suburbs to big city streets finding all the necessary components for survival already in place.
Though they may seem cute and cuddly, and while they may have come to live among us, raccoons remain wild animals and should be treated as such. In urban and suburban situations they become accustomed to the sight, sound, and smell of humans, and may even become somewhat casual in their effort to escape when humans appear. All of that aside, any raccoon that doesn’t retreat when approached by man or one which behaves aggressively toward people should be avoided. Raccoons are subject to rabies and may transmit the disease to humans by a bite, a scratch contaminated with saliva, or by transfer of their blood to a persons open wound. Further complicating the matter is the fact that they can carry the disease for an indeterminate time before showing symptoms of the disease themselves.