MAMMALS OF MISSISSIPPI 14:1–5 Northern raccoon (Procyon lotor) David W. Carraway Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi, 39762, USA Abstract.—Procyon lotor Linnaeus, 1758, is a procyonid commonly called raccoon, common raccoon, northern raccoon, North American raccoon or, colloquially, coon. Characterized by its black facial mask and ringed tail, it is the most widespread of the three species in the genus Procyon. The range for P. lotor extents from Canada to Panama and includes some coastal islands; additionally, it has been introduced in several European and Asian Countries. Highly intelligent and dexterous, it can live anywhere that water is available and since human encroachment it has actually seen an increase in range. It is not of special conservation concern and is probably the most common furbearer in the southeastern United States. Published 05 December 2008 by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Mississippi State University. Northern Raccoon Procyon lotor (Linnaeus, 1758) CONTEXT AND CONTENT. Order Carnivora, suborder Caniformia, family Procyonidae. The family Procyonidae consists of 6 genera: Bassaricyon, Bassariscus, Nasua, Nasuella, Potos, and Procyon. Members of Procyon are P. Cancrivorus, P. lotor, and P. pygmaeus. Currently, 22 subspecies are recognized within P. lotor including: P. l. lotor (Linnaeus 1758), P. l. auspicatus (Nelson 1930), P. l. elucus (Bangs 1898), P. l. excelsus (Nelson and Goldman 1930), P. l. fuscipes (Mearns 1914), P. l. gloveralleni (Nelson and Goldman 1930), P. l. grinnelli (Nelson and Goldman 1930), P. l. hernandezii (Wagler 1831), P. l. hirtus (Nelson and Goldman 1930), P. l. incautus (Nelson 1930), P. l. inesperatus (Nelson 1930), P. l. insularis (Merriam 1898), P. l. litoreus (Nelson and Goldman 1930), P. l. marinus (Nelson 1930), P. l. maynardi (Bangs 1898), P. l. megalodous (Lowery 1943), P. l. pacificus (Merriam 1899), P. l. pallidus (Merriam 1900), P. l. psora (Gray 1842), P. l. pumilus (Miller 1911), P. l. simus (Gidley 1906), and P. l. vancouverensis (Nelson and Goldman 1930). GENERAL CHARACTERS A black facial mask and a tail exhibiting black rings are distinguishing physical features (Fig. 1). Pelage varies from iron gray to black and may exhibit a brown or red tinge. Albinism is known to occur. Male and female measurements for raccoons occurring in Alabama follow (in cm): zygomatic breadth 7 to 8, 6 to 7; total length 64 to 81, 66 to 78; tail length 19 to 28, 20 to 27; hind foot length (excluding claw) 9 to 11, 8 to 11 and ear length (from notch) 5 to 7, 4 to 7 (Johnson 1970). However, greater measurement variation is known to occur throughout the range (Hall and Kelson 1959). Fig. 2 depicts the skull. Feet bear 5 digits and possess no webbing between digits. In Alabama, males average Procyon lotor 2 MAMMALS OF MISSISSIPPI 4.309 kilograms and females average 3.674 kilograms (Johnson 1970). However, weight varies widely and is correlated with distribution and seasons. Gait ranges from semiplantigrade to plantigrade. United States, it occurs throughout the state of Mississippi. Fig. 3. Distribution of Procyon lotor. Red depicts native range; blue depicts Introduced range. Image composition was derived from various sources. Image use is authorized under GFDL licenses. FORM AND FUNCTION Fig. 1. Adult Procyon lotor photographed in Hinds County, Mississippi, September 2008. Photo courtesy of the author. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Molt occurs annually during the summer months (Goldman 1950). An omnivorous lifestyle is facilitated by an adult dental formula of i 3/3, c 1/1, p 4/4, and m 2/2, total 40. However, the first premolars may be absent (Goldman 1913). In Alabama, a mature bacula is developed at approximately 15 months of age (Johnson 1970). Hibernation is not practiced; although, very cold weather may stimulate an extended stay in a den (Schneider et al. 1971). Summer and fall fat accumulation helps provide an energy source during the winter months (Mech et al. 1968). During cold weather heart rates increase (Folk et al. 1968). ONTOGENY AND REPRODUCTION Fig. 2. Skull of mature Procyon lotor. Photo courtesy of the author. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. DISTRIBUTION Range (Fig. 3) extents from Canada to Panama and includes some coastal islands. Additionally, P. lotor has been introduced in several European and Asian Countries. Common in the southeastern In Alabama, the average conception date occurs in mid April; subsequently, the average birth date occurs in mid June (Johnson 1970). Contributions from those less than a year old to the overall productivity of a population are relatively insignificant (Johnson 1970). Late-born survival may be relatively low (Mech et al. 1968). After the gestation period, approximately 63 days, typically 2 to 5 young are born. Female raccoons are responsible for the rearing of young (Schneider et al. 1971). Weaning occurs Procyon lotor MAMMALS OF MISSISSIPPI between week 7 and 4 months of age (Montgomery 1969). Though longevity may range from 13 to 16 years, the average lifespan in the wild in Alabama is 3.1 years (Johnson 1970). ECOLOGY Population characteristics.— Raccoons are ecological generalists, which occupy diverse habitats in diverse landscapes (Chamberlain et al. 2002). Population density varies widely. Food shortage, hunting, disease, parasites, and physiological stress (due to high density) are causes of mortality. Juvenile mortality rarely occurs during the summer or fall; however, during the winter, mortality may increase (Johnson 1970). Typically, the ratio of males to females at birth is equal (Stains 1956). Typical litters of 1.9 to 5 young disperse at approximately 9 months of age (Sharp and Sharp 1956). Space use.—Raccoons select den sites such as tree rest sites, tree cavities, brush piles, ground dens, and abandoned structures based partially on the availability of food and water resources (Henner et al. 2004). Crop fields, roads, and macrohabitat edges often coincide with preferred den sites (Henner et al. 2004). In Mississippi, females generally utilize tree cavities during the young-rearing periods (spring and summer). However, males typically utilize ground dens and brush piles during this time period (Henner et al. 2004). Due to parturition and rearing responsibilities females are more constrained than males in terms of resource needs (Beasley and Rhodes 2008). Males prefer den sites associated with lakes and ponds. Females prefer den sites near crop fields (Henner et al. 2004). Raccoons may actually avoid hazardous areas such as roads when foraging (Wilson and Nielsen 2007). Long-range movement is known to occur. 3 Diet.—Raccoons are nocturnal omnivores. In Alabama, berries, nuts, seeds, and arthropods are the most important food sources (Johnson 1970). During the winter, diets primarily consist of hard mast; however, during the spring and summer diets primarily consist of soft mass (Johnson 1970). In agricultural landscapes, crops or food sources associated with crops (e.g. insects) act as the raccoons’ primary food source (Rivest and Bergeron 1981). Diseases and Parasites.—Raccoons are an indicator species for the monitoring of disease and pollutants (Bigler et al. 1975). Zoonotic diseases are a concern in the southeastern United States where raccoons are known to carry 13 pathogens harmful to humans (Bigler et al. 1975). The United States Department of Agriculture, through Wildlife Services, administers an oral rabies vaccination (ORV) program in an attempt to control rabies in raccoons through the use of vaccinia-rabies glycoprotein (V- RG) baits (Boulanger 2008). The biggest threat of rabies to Mississippi may be from the movement of a southeastern strain of rabies into the state from Alabama via raccoons (Elchos 2004). Periodically, extensive mortality occurs as a result of respiratory infections commonly due to canine distemper (Johnson 1970). In Alabama, a total of 19 species of endo-parasites and 11 species of ecto-parasites are known to adversely impact raccoon populations (Johnson 1970). Interspecific interactions.—During the breeding season, raccoons typically select cavities that are high off the ground, presumably as increased protection from coyotes and bobcats (Wilson and Nielsen 2007). Damages caused by raccoons generally only occur in areas of overpopulation (Johnson 1970). Even a small reduction in large raccoon populations could substantially reduce damage in agricultural crops such as corn (Beasley and Procyon lotor 4 MAMMALS OF MISSISSIPPI Rhodes 2008). Hunting, which is generally the only acceptable control method in this scenario, should be encouraged in such areas (Johnson 1970). BEHAVIOR Males may be territorial in regard to other males; however, females are not territorial (Fritzell 1978). Typically, raccoons are most active on warm, rainy nights (Johnson 1970). Those who have used dogs to study raccoons suggest that they have excellent memories and learning abilities and actually plan escape routes and techniques (Johnson 1970). GENETICS Apparently chromosome numbers are polymorphic (Lotze and Anderson 1979). Albinism is known to occur. CONSERVATION Economic return from raccoons is significant. In 1966, the United States Department of Commerce estimated that 1 to 2 million raccoons were harvested yearly for their pelt and meat. In Mississippi, raccoons have traditionally been pursued for food, sport, and pelt. Today, Mississippi continues to see economic return via the sales of hunting and trapping licenses and coondog training permits. Local revenue is generated via organized competition coonhound events, which draw competitors from across the United States. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists P. lotor as a species of least concern (IUCN 2008). LITERATURE CITED Beasley, J. C., and O. E. Rhodes Jr. 2008. Relationship between raccoon abundance and crop damage. Human–Wildlife Conflicts 2:248— 259. Bigler, W. J., J. H. Jenkins, P.M. Cumbie, G. L.Hoff and E. C. Prather. 1975. Wildlife and environmental health: Raccoons as indicators of zoonoses and pollutants in southeastern United States. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 167:592—597. Boulanger, J. R., L. L. Bigler, P. D. Curtis, D. H. Lein, and A. J. Lembo Jr. 2008. Evaluation of an oral vaccination program to control raccoon rabies in a suburbanized landscape. Human–Wildlife Conflicts 2:212—224. Chamberlain, M. J., L. M. Conner, and B. D. Leopold. 2002. Seasonal habitat selection by raccoons (Procyon lotor) in intensively managed pine forests of central Mississippi. The American Midland Naturalist. 147:102–108. Elchos, B. 2004. Rabies Report. Mississippi Board of Animal Health. Retrieved 13 October, 2008, from: http://www.mbah.state.ms.us/disease _programs/rabies/rabies_report_2005 .htm Folk, G. 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