The common raccoon is a moderately sized, heavily furred mammal best characterized by its distinctive markings. The face has a dark brownish-black eye mask sharply separated from whitish nose patches, eyebrow lines, and exclamation points between the eyes. The inside of the ears is ringed with white, adding to the facial contrast. The tail is annulated with five to seven dark rings separated by light gray or tan rings. The hind legs are longer than the front; thus, in a walking gait, the rump is higher than the head.
The common raccoon occurs in suitable habitats throughout Oregon; it does not occur in high mountain regions or in desert regions except near permanent water sources. The characteristics that contribute most to habitats being suitable for raccoons are water and trees. Hollow trees provide dens that serve to insulate the occupying raccoon from inclement weather.
Few, if any, behavior patterns of wild mammals are more widely recognized than the so-called "food-washing" behavior of the racoon. Wild raccoons, in foraging along streams, commonly sit on their hind legs (sometimes in the water), stare vacantly into space, and search for food by "dabbling" with splayed-fingered forepaws.
Common raccoons are notorious for eating pet food left on a porch, or getting into garbage cans for food. Discourage this behavior by keeping pet food indoors and securing garbage cans.
Did you know relocating raccoons is illegal in Oregon? Learn more about how to live with them on our Living with Wildlife, Raccoons page.
Photo by Tim Moore
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