1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Raccoon
RACCOON (or RACOON), a name borne by the typical representative of a group of American arboreal placental mammals belonging to the order CARNIVORA (q.v.) and the family Procyonidae. The word is a corruption of the North-American Indian "arrathkune" or "arathcone." The Fr. raton or raton laveur, Ger. Waschbär, and other European names are derived from a curious habit the raccoon has of dipping or washing its food in water before eating it. The typical raccoon (Procyon lotor) is a thickly built animal about the size of a badger, with a coat of long coarse greyish-brown hairs, short ears, and a bushy black-and-white-ringed tail. Its range extends over the whole of the United States, and stretches on the west northwards to Alaska and southwards well into Central America, where it attains its maximum size. The following notes on the habits of the raccoon are from Dr C. Hart Merriam's The Mammals of the Adirondacks:—
- "Raccoons are omnivorous beasts and feed upon mice, small birds, birds' eggs, turtles and their eggs, frogs, fish, crayfish, molluscs, insects, nuts, fruits, maize and sometimes poultry. Excepting alone the bats and flying-squirrels, they are the most strictly nocturnal of all our mammals, and yet I have several times seen them abroad on cloudy days. They haunt the banks of ponds and streams, and find much of their food in these places, such as crayfish, mussels and fish, although they are unable to dive and pursue the latter under water, like the otter and mink. They are good swimmers and do not hesitate to cross rivers that lie in their path. . . . The raccoon hibernates during the severest part of the winter, retiring to its nest rather early, and appearing again in February or March, according to the earliness or lateness of the season. It makes its home high up in the hollow of some large tree, preferring a dead limb to the trunk itself. It does little in the way of constructing a nest, and from four to six young are commonly born at a time, generally early in April in this region. The young remain with the mother about a year."
The South-American species, P. cancrivorus, the crab-eating raccoon, is very similar to P. lotor, but differs by its shorter fur, larger size, proportionally more powerful teeth and other minor characters. It extends over the whole of South America, as far south as the Rio Negro, and is common in all suitable localities. Its habits are similar to those of the North-American species.