Raccoons are widespread from southern Canada to Central America. Their preferred habitat consists of brushy or wooded areas near streams, lakes, or swamps. A distinctive black mask, outlined in white, extends across the raccoon’s eyes, cheeks, and snout, while the rest of its rounded body is covered in dense, gray or brown fur. Their long, bushy tail is ringed with four or more black stripes. Adults measure twenty to thirty inches in length, and can weigh up to thirty-five pounds.
Raccoons are omnivores, meaning they consume a variety of foods. Their diet is made up of aquatic life, such as crayfish, crabs, and oysters, as well as mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, nuts, and fruit. When human fare is available, raccoons will not hesitate to sample it as well. Using their highly developed senses of hearing, sight, and touch, raccoons can locate food quite readily. A camper’s closed ice chest, tent, and trash bags serve as no challenge to the curious raccoon.
Talented climbers and swimmers, adult raccoons have few natural enemies. Juveniles are preyed upon by owl, wolf, coyote, and bobcat. In some areas, raccoons are controlled through trapping and baiting due to overpopulation of the species and/or fears of potential rabies outbreaks. Raccoons may live up to ten years in the wild.
Virtually any wooded area in which humans congregate and leave potential food sources is a good raccoon-viewing location. Since raccoons are nocturnal creatures, viewing opportunities are most likely during overnight activities such as camping. One of the many Texas parks you may witness these masked bandits is Guadalupe River State Park in Spring Branch. They first appear just before dusk and can move quite stealthily.