Raccoons are fascinating mammals that populate various regions of the United States and the entire world! There are various species of raccoon that live in a wide variety of climates and habitats. When it comes to describing what a general raccoon looks like, first, you must decide which species to describe! From Ring-Tailed Raccoons to the Tres Maria Raccoon, Coati, and more; raccoons come in many different shapes and sizes. Typically, the North American raccoon is the raccoon species most people are familiar with, and the one we will talk about today. Continue reading to learn the general appearance and characteristics of a North American raccoon.
Face and Paws
The two most distinguishable physical characteristics of a North American raccoon are its face and paws. A raccoon has a black stripe of fur directly across its visual center that closely resembles a mask. Some believe this black mask reduces light and glare; allowing them to see better at night. Surrounding this “mask” is a contrasting colored fur; usually a gradation of black, white, grey, and brown. Their ears are slightly upright and rounded, and bordered with white fur.
Raccoon paws are very dexterous and human-like; with long claws for grasping, climbing, and agility. In fact, their sense of touch is their most valued and important sense. Raccoons’ sense of touch is extremely receptive because they have hyper-sensitive front paws. They also have the ability to stand on their hind legs; which allows them a more supportive posture when grasping and holding things. This mannerism gives them more of an advantage when using their paws in nature. Above their sharp, non-retractable claws, raccoons have vibrissae; a type of hair that has a somatosensory response to the brain. They are also called whiskers on other mammals. It allows raccoons to recognize an object before even touching it. This helps them as they are nocturnal animals.
Body and Tail
One of the most recognizable features of any raccoon species is its striped tail. In fact, there are raccoon species in the world named specifically after their tails! A raccoon tail is general shorter than their body; reaching average adult lengths of 8 to 16 inches or so. It is striped with different colored fur; usually black, white, and grey. Their tails allow them control and balance when climbing trees, roaming, walking, and standing. They are strong and valuable assets to a wild raccoon.
The torso of a raccoon usually measures on average between sixteen and twenty eight centimeters in length. It is hard to tell an average weight of an adult raccoon because it largely depends on their habitat and food availability. However, an adult raccoon can weight anywhere between 20 to 70 pounds, depending on its environment and habitat. Also, males are generally heavier than females. Another interesting fact about raccoon weight is that they weigh more in the beginning of winter than in springtime because of the all the food they stored for the colder weather.
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