- Least concern
- Average life span in the wild:
- 2 to 3 years
- 23.75 to 37.5 in (60 to 95 cm)
- 4 to 23 lbs (1.8 to 10.4 kg)
- Group name:
- Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Bandit-masked raccoons are a familiar sight just about everywhere, because they will eat just about anything. These ubiquitous mammals are found in forests, marshes, prairies, and even in cities. They are adaptable and use their dexterous front paws and long fingers to find and feast on a wide variety of fare.
In the natural world, raccoons snare a lot of their meals in the water. These nocturnal foragers use lightning-quick paws to grab crayfish, frogs, and other aquatic creatures. On land, they pluck mice and insects from their hiding places and raid nests for tasty eggs.
Raccoons also eat fruit and plants—including those grown in human gardens and farms. They will even open garbage cans to dine on the contents.
These ring-tailed animals are equally opportunistic when it comes to choosing a denning site. They may inhabit a tree hole, fallen log, or a house's attic. Females have one to seven cubs in early summer. The young raccoons often spend the first two months or so of their lives high in a tree hole. Later, mother and children move to the ground when the cubs begin to explore on their own.
Raccoons in the northern parts of their range gorge themselves in spring and summer to store up body fat. They then spend much of the winter asleep in a den. There are six other species of raccoons, in addition to the familiar northern (North American) raccoon. Most other species live on tropical islands.
The loss of animal species is irreversible and potentially catastrophic, not to mention heartrendingly sad. Where do we stand? Face the facts with this quiz.
The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the oldest species of seal on the planet. But their tenure in paradise is perilously close to its end; only about 1,100 seals remain in the wild.
They’re rarely seen. Even less often photographed. Bryde’s whales rocket through Pacific shallows to gorge on fish. Dive in for more.
Find out what National Geographic Society is doing to save animals all over the world, and learn what you can do to help.