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Forests, Fish and Wildlife

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Procyon lotor

Although raccoons are widespread in southern Canada, they were not originally found on any of the islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They were introduced to the Island in the early 1900s when fur ranchers released their breeding stock after the price of pelts declined. Raccoons are now well established and common throughout the province. Their greyish-brown fur, black masks and ringed tails make them impossible to mistake for any other animals. They may weigh up to 16 kilograms (35 pounds).


Wooded country along streams is ideal for raccoons, but they also will live along ditches, stream banks and hedgerows next to farmland and marshes. They have adapted well to man's presence and are often surprisingly common in urban areas, where they may go unnoticed because of their nocturnal habits.


Raccoons are active throughout the year, except in very cold weather in winter. They are playful, agile, curious, and skilful at climbing. Despite their love for stream and pond banks, they seldom swim unless they are threatened. Even small raccoons are formidable fighters when cornered.

Raccoons commonly forage along stream banks at night, feeling in the water with their hand-like forepaws in search of food (the sense of touch is highly developed in these animals). Shellfish, frogs, and other aquatic tidbits are important to their diet. Other foods include small animals of all sorts, eggs, fruits, farm crops, dead animals, and garbage.

They spend most of the winter in a state of sleep called "dormancy" which is not true hibernation. A hollow tree, an old barn, or any other snug den will shelter them during the cold. Mild weather in winter or early spring arouses the males from their sleep, and they go in search of a female. Three to six young are born in April and remain with their mother for a year. The den is usually a hollow tree, although other protected sites are often used including barns and outbuildings. At birth, the young are blind and helpless, covered with a yellow-grey fur. At about 10 days, the facemask can be seen, and the characteristic ringed tail can be seen at about 20 days, when their eyes begin to open. Young raccoons do not travel very far from the den site until about 10 weeks of age.

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