The raccoon's tail ranges from 8 to 16 inches (20 to 41 cm) in length Male raccoons are generally larger than females. The common raccoon has a natural range from southern Canada to Panama, and has been introduced to continental Europe. Some raccoons once considered separate species are now thought to be the same as or subspecies of the common raccoon, including the Barbados raccoon (P. Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, placed the raccoon in the genus Ursus, first as Ursus cauda elongata ("long-tailed bear") in the second edition of his Systema Naturae, then as Ursus lotor ("washer bear") in the tenth edition.It has been know to live in the city in addition to the wild. cancrivorus, the tropical "crab-eating raccoon," ranges from Costa Rica through most areas of South America east of the Andes down to northern Argentina and Uruguay. pygmaeus, the "Cozumel Island raccoon," is a much rarer species than the other two. Unlike other procyonids, such as the crab-eating raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus), the ancestors of the common raccoon left tropical and subtropical areas and migrated farther north about 4 million years ago, in a migration that has been confirmed by the discovery in the Great Plains of fossils dating back to the middle of the Pliocene.It is native to Cozumel Island off the Atlantic coast of Yucatan. The word "raccoon" was adopted into English from a native Powhatan term, as used in the Virginia Colony.

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Important in terrestrial and, to some extent, aquatic food chains, raccoons consume a diversity of insects and other invertebrates (such as crayfish, crabs, and lobsters), some vertebrates (such as frogs, rodents, fish, and bird and turtle eggs), and plant matter (fruits, nuts) as well, while being consumed by coyotes, large birds of prey (hawks, owls), and the young by snakes.

In such a role, raccoons help in maintaining the balance of prey populations and provide food for other animals.

For humans, they have been used for pelts, for food, and sometimes, while not domesticated, they are even raised as pets.

However, they also can be considered vermin or a nuisance.

They can damage crops, chicken yards, orchards, and vineyards, and can transmit diseases and parasites to humans and domestic animals.

Procyon, the taxonomic unit in which raccoons are placed, is a genus in the mammalian family Procyonidae and order Carnivora.

As members of the family Procyonidae and the subfamily Procyoninae, raccoons are placed with coatis (comprising the genus Nasua), mountain coatis (genus Nasuella), and the ringtails and cacomistles (genus Bassariscus).

Extant raccoons have a stout body, short legs, long digits with non-retractile claws, a black mask on the face that goes across the eyes, a pointed muzzle, and they have a bushy tail with black rings.

Raccoon hindfeet have been described as plantigrade (with soles touching the ground), similar to those of humans and bears, and their entire sole is on the ground when standing, although they might also be described as semi-plantigrade since they move at times with their heels off the ground. was described from captive specimens; its identity is undeterminable as the remains of the two animals assigned to this taxon cannot be located anymore and may have been lost.