This medium sized carnivore is readily identified by its heavy-set body, grizzled brownish-gray appearance, black facial mask, and banded tail. The sexes are similar and measure from about 1 1/2 feet to 2 1/3 feet in length with an eight to 12 inch tail that is alternately ringed in light and dark. Weights range from about 12 to 35 pounds.
A relatively common animal along Arizona’s perennial streams, lakes, and reservoirs, raccoons can also be found near some of the larger stock tanks and in rural areas where permanent water is available. Although not often seen in the wild because of its nocturnal habits, the raccoon’s distinctive five-toed tracks are commonly observed in mud around stock tanks and along river courses. These animals are adept climbers as well as swimmers.
Raccoons are omnivores, eating whatever food is available – aquatic insect larvae, beetle grubs, fish, frogs, crayfish, wild fruits, and even carrion. In certain areas, these animals can be a nuisance, not only raiding garbage cans, but also committing depredations on poultry houses, corn fields, and fruit trees.
Raccoons have been little studied in Arizona, and their life history here is not well documented. The two to five young are presumably born in spring in a den that may be located in a rocky crevice, brush-pile, or hollow tree. The young remain with the female until the fall.
Hunting and Trapping History
Both pursued with dogs as game, and trapped as a fur-bearer, the raccoon is one of only a few species in Arizona that can be legally taken with a firearm at night. Because of their limited distribution near water, “coons” have never been important fur-bearers, and annual harvests from trapping have rarely exceeded 1,000 pelts. With the decline in trapping activity over the past 10 years, this take has been reduced to only a few dozen raccoons a year. Although its nocturnal habits make for few incidental takings, the raccoon’s status as a game animal appears more stable. Hunt questionnaire data from general license buyers indicate an annual harvest of another 1,200 animals a year. Most of this harvest is undoubtedly by hunters with hounds.