Northern Raccoon (Procyon lotor, Linnaeus, 1758)
Origin: Central and North America
Size: 75 to 100 cm
The Raccoon is a medium-sized carnivore with stocky body and short limbs. The pelage is dark grey with a black mask and ringed (black and white) tail; on the shoulders and back the plumage is reddish-brown, however pelage colour variation is quite common (black, orange, cinnamon according to the distribution. The face is white and it has check tufts which gives the impression of a broad head. The spine is curved giving the animal a rounded appearance similar to a bear. Females and males are alike in colour but males are usually larger in body measurements and weight.
This species is native to Central and North America and has a widespread distribution (from Panama to Canada and Alaska). The Northern Raccoon has been introduced in some Caribbean Islands, eastern and Western Europe and also in some parts of Japan. Occurs in a wide range of habitats, usually associated with water (woodlands, wetlands, farmlands and urban landscapes). The diet is omnivorous and opportunistic, feeding according to the availability of food items; plants are an important part of its diet (acorns, grain crops), but as well eggs, nestlings, insects, worms, small mammals, aquatic invertebrates and garbage. Usually sleeps during the day and is active during the night. Typically solitary, except the female when it has young.
Raccoons are widely used in the pet trade and fur market and are bred in captivity in some European countries; these can lead to accidental escapes or even to intentional releases (for hunting). This species was first recorded in Europe in 1927 (Germany) and its numbers increased in the last decades; it is already widespread in 27 European countries and is considered one of the 100 worst invasive species. There are already some populations established in Spain but it has not happened in Portugal yet.