Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Procyon lotor
(raccoon)

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Datasheet

Procyon lotor (raccoon)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Procyon lotor
  • Preferred Common Name
  • raccoon
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Mammalia
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • P. lotor is a medium-sized carnivore species with the most widespread distribution among the Procyonidae. Its opportunism and flexible behavioural traits result in omnivory and a wide ecological niche, with few n...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Procyon lotor (raccoon); adult on the roof of an apartment house. Bad Wildungen, Germany. June, 2007.
TitleAdult
CaptionProcyon lotor (raccoon); adult on the roof of an apartment house. Bad Wildungen, Germany. June, 2007.
Copyright©Carsten Volkwein-2007/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.5
Procyon lotor (raccoon); adult on the roof of an apartment house. Bad Wildungen, Germany. June, 2007.
AdultProcyon lotor (raccoon); adult on the roof of an apartment house. Bad Wildungen, Germany. June, 2007.©Carsten Volkwein-2007/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.5
Procyon lotor (raccoon); adult in natural environment. Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. California, USA. February, 2013.
TitleAdult
CaptionProcyon lotor (raccoon); adult in natural environment. Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. California, USA. February, 2013.
CopyrightPublic Domain/released by US Government/original photographer, Dave Menke
Procyon lotor (raccoon); adult in natural environment. Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. California, USA. February, 2013.
AdultProcyon lotor (raccoon); adult in natural environment. Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. California, USA. February, 2013.Public Domain/released by US Government/original photographer, Dave Menke
Procyon lotor (raccoon); adult, facial details. Note the large ears, snout length and facial mask.
TitleFacial characteristics
CaptionProcyon lotor (raccoon); adult, facial details. Note the large ears, snout length and facial mask.
Copyright©Darkone/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.5
Procyon lotor (raccoon); adult, facial details. Note the large ears, snout length and facial mask.
Facial characteristicsProcyon lotor (raccoon); adult, facial details. Note the large ears, snout length and facial mask.©Darkone/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.5
Procyon lotor (raccoon); close-up of facial characteristics.
TitleAdult
CaptionProcyon lotor (raccoon); close-up of facial characteristics.
Copyright©Stanley D. Gehrt
Procyon lotor (raccoon); close-up of facial characteristics.
AdultProcyon lotor (raccoon); close-up of facial characteristics.©Stanley D. Gehrt
Procyon lotor (raccoon); sheltering beneath a log.
TitleAdult
CaptionProcyon lotor (raccoon); sheltering beneath a log.
Copyright©Stanley D. Gehrt
Procyon lotor (raccoon); sheltering beneath a log.
AdultProcyon lotor (raccoon); sheltering beneath a log.©Stanley D. Gehrt
Procyon lotor (raccoon); close view, sheltering beneath a log.
TitleAdult
CaptionProcyon lotor (raccoon); close view, sheltering beneath a log.
Copyright©Stanley D. Gehrt
Procyon lotor (raccoon); close view, sheltering beneath a log.
AdultProcyon lotor (raccoon); close view, sheltering beneath a log.©Stanley D. Gehrt
Procyon lotor (raccoon); at rest.
TitleAdult
CaptionProcyon lotor (raccoon); at rest.
Copyright©Stanley D. Gehrt
Procyon lotor (raccoon); at rest.
AdultProcyon lotor (raccoon); at rest.©Stanley D. Gehrt
Procyon lotor (raccoon); Raccoons can carry the intestinal parasite, Baylisascaris procyonis, which can can cause serious problems in humans. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/baylisascaris/gen_info/faqs.html
TitleLife history of the intestinal parasite Baylisascaris procyonis
CaptionProcyon lotor (raccoon); Raccoons can carry the intestinal parasite, Baylisascaris procyonis, which can can cause serious problems in humans. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/baylisascaris/gen_info/faqs.html
CopyrightPublic Domain/released by CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Procyon lotor (raccoon); Raccoons can carry the intestinal parasite, Baylisascaris procyonis, which can can cause serious problems in humans. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/baylisascaris/gen_info/faqs.html
Life history of the intestinal parasite Baylisascaris procyonisProcyon lotor (raccoon); Raccoons can carry the intestinal parasite, Baylisascaris procyonis, which can can cause serious problems in humans. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/baylisascaris/gen_info/faqs.htmlPublic Domain/released by CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Procyon lotor Linnaeus, 1758

Preferred Common Name

  • raccoon

Other Scientific Names

  • Lotor vulgaris Tiedermann, 1808
  • Procyon annulatus Fischer, 1814
  • Ursus lotor Linnaeus, 1758

International Common Names

  • English: common raccoon; northern raccoon; raccoon, common
  • Spanish: mapache
  • French: raton laveur
  • Russian: enot

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Waschbär
  • Greece: rakoun
  • Italy: procione lavatore
  • Portugal: guaxinim

EPPO code

  • PROYLO (Procyon lotor)

Summary of Invasiveness

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P. lotor is a medium-sized carnivore species with the most widespread distribution among the Procyonidae. Its opportunism and flexible behavioural traits result in omnivory and a wide ecological niche, with few natural predators. In addition, P. lotor has physical and physiological traits that allow it to colonize a wide range of habitats and climates. It has continued to expand its native, North American range northward through the southern provinces of Canada, in addition to arid regions of the southwestern United States. Where conditions are favourable, colonization following introduction can be rapid. The species has been introduced to ssome islands off the coasts of Canada and Alaska, and in the Caribbean, and is considered invasive in some cases. It is expanding its range as an alien species following introductions in western Europe, and Japan. Further intentional introductions at the international scale are unlikely; however, the species may be introduced accidentally (it is common in the pet trade) or through range expansion.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Mammalia
  •                     Order: Carnivora
  •                         Family: Procyonidae
  •                             Genus: Procyon
  •                                 Species: Procyon lotor

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Most early references recognize 18 species for the family Procyonidae (Wozencraft, 1993), which includes the following genera: olingos (Bassaricyon sp.) and kinkajous (Potos sp.) of Central and South America, ringtails (Bassariscus sp.) and raccoons (Procyon sp.) of North and Central America, and coatis (Nasua sp., Nasuella sp.) of North, Central, and South America. Traditionally, the genus Procyon has consisted of 7 species; however, 5 of these (P. minor, P. maynardi, P. insularis, P. gloveralleni, P. pygmaeus) are insular and may simply be variations of introduced P. lotor (Corbet and Hill, 1986; Helgen and Wilson, 2003; Helgen et al., 2008) or may be extinct and replaced by P. lotor (Lotze and Anderson, 1979; Hall, 1981; Pons et al., 1999), with the exception of P. pygmaeus located on Cozumel Island, Mexico (Cuarón et al., 2004). The other continental congeneric is the crab-eating raccoon, P. cancrivorus, which occurs in South and Central America (Goldman, 1950).

Description

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P. lotor is a medium-sized member of the order Carnivora, with a stocky torso and short limbs. The pelage coloration, with the striking black mask and ringed tail, makes the raccoon easily recognizable. The spine is curved posteriorly, giving the animal a roundish appearance similar to a bear. The black mask usually extends from slightly above the eyes to the base of the snout and flares out along the cheeks. It is accentuated by white lines immediately above and below the mask, and the mask is often broken down the middle by a brown bar. As a raccoon ages the mask tends to fade. The anterior side of the ear is entirely white; the posterior side has a black base that extends to nearly half the ear. The top of the nose and forehead are greyish or reddish brown. Pelage color on the shoulders and back is dominated by reddish-brown guard hairs. However, variations on this color scheme are common, including nearly black, orange, or cinnamon variants, and geographic variation in pelage color occurs (Goldman, 1950; Stains, 1956; Johnson, 1970; Lotze and Anderson, 1979; Gehrt, 2003). The ventral side is lighter, usually a light brown, with sparse guard hairs. The hair on each foot is short and whitish-gray. Four to seven blackish rings and a dark tip characterize the tail. The feet are plantigrade with naked footpads. Front and back feet are pentadactyl with no webbing between the toes, and each toe has a sharp, curved, nonretractile claw. The tracks resemble human prints, with the long toes of the front foot resembling fingers and the shorter toes of the back foot, with its longer foot pad, resembling human toes. The pinnae are relatively small compared to those of canids or felids, and the snout is medium length and pointed. Cheek tufts that flare to the sides give the impression of a broad head when seen from the front. There are no pelage differences between males and females; however, males are larger than females in body measurements and weight. Adult body weights usually range from 4 to 9 kg, with regional variations in size across North America, and body weights may change seasonally at northern latitudes. The smallest individuals occur in South Florida (Goldman, 1950); with mean winter body weights of 2.4 and 2.0 kg for adult males and females, respectively. Mean body weights for adults at northern latitudes range from 6.9 - 10.4 kg during the winter, and body weights in South Texas average 9.0 and 6.7 kg for males and females, respectively (Gehrt and Fritzell, 1999). Adult raccoons have 40 teeth, with a dental formula: i3/3; c1/1; p4/4; m2/2 (Gehrt, 2003). The dentition reflects the omnivorous habits of this species, with sharp incisors and canines suitable for cutting or tearing, contrasting with square-shaped molars and 4th upper premolars with small, rounded cusps, suited for grinding plant material. Morphological characteristics of P. lotor in Germany appear to be similar to those of North America (Lutz, 1995). 

Distribution

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P. lotor is considered a native of Central and North America, and it has the most widespread distribution of the Procyonidae, extending from Panama into Canada and Alaska (Glanz, 1991; Gehrt, 2003). Historically, it was rare in southern Canada and in parts of the Rocky Mountains and western deserts, especially the Great Basin region (Kaufmann, 1982; Sanderson, 1987). Today it is found throughout Utah and Nevada, probably in response to agricultural irrigation and urbanization (Kamler et al., 2003). Likewise, it has expanded its range northward and is currently found in Canada from central British Columbia, across the prairie provinces up to the edge of the boreal forest, and across to Nova Scotia (Larivière, 2004). It occurs, as a result of introductions, on islands off the coast of British Columbia (S. Roy, FERA, Sand Hutton, UK, personal communication, 2014; Bartoszewicz, 2011); MacDonald and Cook (1996) considered raccoons introduced to Alaskan islands to have been extirpated, but there are reports of their continuing presence (S. Roy, FERA, Sand Hutton, UK, personal communication, 2014). It was brought to Prince Edward Island, Canada, in the early 20th century to keep in fur farms, but escapes have resulted in the species now occurring throughout the island (PEI Fisheries, Aquaculture and Environment, 2000). It has been introduced to some Caribbean islands (the presence of the species on Puerto Rico is possible but unverified -- S. Roy, FERA, Sand Hutton, UK, personal communication, 2014). Introduced populations of P. lotor occur in Eastern and Western Europe, and also in parts of Japan. Following accidental releases and abandonment, it is established in 42 of 47 prefectures in Japan (Ikeda et al., 2004). It is currently found free-ranging in Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Denmark, Belarus, Slovenia, and the former Yugoslavia (Serbia) (Cirovic and Milenkovic, 2003; Frantz et al., 2005). There are reports of its presence in Sweden and Finland (S. Roy, FERA, Sand Hutton, UK, personal communication, 2014), but according to Bartoszewicz (2011) it is not present in Finland and in Sweden (and Norway) there have been only occasional escaped individuals.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

AzerbaijanPresentIntroduced Invasive Aliev and Sanderson, 1966; Winter, 2006
Georgia (Republic of)PresentIntroduced Invasive Aliev and Sanderson, 1966; Winter, 2006
JapanPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-HokkaidoWidespreadIntroduced1979 Invasive Ikeda et al., 2004Escaped from captivity in 1979 in Eniwa City
-HonshuWidespreadIntroduced1962, 1982, 1988 Invasive Ikeda et al., 2004Escaped a zoo in 1962 in Aichi Prefecture; abandoned by a breeder in Gifu Prefecture in 1982, and escape in Kamakura City in 1988
-KyushuWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Ikeda et al., 2004
-Ryukyu ArchipelagoLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Ikeda et al., 2004Found in most prefectures
-ShikokuLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Ikeda et al., 2004Found in most prefectures

North America

CanadaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlbertaLocalisedNative Not invasive Larivière, 2004Common at southern latitudes, expanding northward
-British ColumbiaLocalisedNative Not invasive Larivière, 2004Common at southern latitudes, expanding northward
-ManitobaLocalisedNative Not invasive Larivière, 2004Common at southern latitudes, expanding northward
-New BrunswickWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-Nova ScotiaLocalisedNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-OntarioLocalisedNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003Common at southern latitudes, expanding northward
-Prince Edward IslandWidespreadIntroducedearly 1900s Invasive PEI Fisheries Aquaculture and Environment, 2000
-QuebecLocalisedNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003Common at southern latitudes, expanding northward
-SaskatchewanLocalisedNative Not invasive Larivière, 2004Common at southern latitudes, expanding northward
MexicoLocalisedNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003Rare in deserts, otherwise common
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlabamaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003; Gehrt, 2003
-ArizonaLocalisedNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003Rare in deserts, otherwise common
-ArkansasWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-CaliforniaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-ColoradoLocalisedNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003Common except for high altitudes
-ConnecticutWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-DelawareWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-FloridaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-GeorgiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-IdahoLocalisedNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003Common except for high altitudes
-IllinoisWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-IndianaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-IowaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-KansasWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-KentuckyWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-LouisianaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-MaineWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-MarylandWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-MassachusettsWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-MichiganWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-MinnesotaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-MississippiWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-MissouriWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-MontanaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003Common except for high altitudes
-NebraskaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-NevadaLocalisedNative Not invasive Kamler et al., 2003Common except for dessert areas
-New HampshireWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-New JerseyWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-New MexicoLocalisedNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-New YorkWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-North CarolinaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-North DakotaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-OhioWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-OklahomaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-OregonWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-PennsylvaniaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-Rhode IslandWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-South CarolinaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-South DakotaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-TennesseeWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-TexasWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-UtahLocalisedNative Not invasive Kamler et al., 2003Common except for high altitudes and deserts
-VermontWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-VirginiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-WashingtonWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-West VirginiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-WisconsinWidespreadNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003
-WyomingLocalisedNative Not invasive Gehrt, 2003Common except for high altitudes

Central America and Caribbean

BahamasPresentIntroduced<1784 Invasive Helgen and Wilson, 2002Currently found on New Providence. Introduced to Grand Providence from Florida in 1932-1933
BarbadosAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced1650-1680 Not invasive Helgen and Wilson, 2002Last record in 1972, considered eradicated
BelizePresentNative Not invasive Goldman, 1950
Costa RicaPresentNative Not invasive Goldman, 1950
El SalvadorPresentNative Not invasive Goldman, 1950
GuadeloupePresentIntroduced< 1882 Invasive Helgen and Wilson, 2002Previously considered an endemic species
GuatemalaPresentNative Not invasive Goldman, 1950
HondurasPresentNative Not invasive Goldman, 1950
JamaicaAbsent, unreliable recordIntroducedHelgen and Wilson, 2002A single account, may be an error
MartiniquePresentIntroduced Invasive Helgen and Wilson, 2002
NicaraguaPresentNative Not invasive Goldman, 1950
PanamaPresentNative Not invasive Goldman, 1950

Europe

AustriaPresentIntroduced Invasive Cirovic and Milenkovic, 2003
BelarusPresentIntroduced1954-1958 Invasive Aliev and Sanderson, 1966
BelgiumPresentIntroduced Invasive Cirovic and Milenkovic, 2003
Czech RepublicPresentIntroduced Invasive Cirovic and Milenkovic, 2003
DenmarkPresentIntroduced Invasive Cirovic and Milenkovic, 2003
FranceLocalisedIntroduced1966 Invasive Leger, 1999
GermanyWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Lutz, 1995; Lutz, 1995
HungaryPresentIntroduced Invasive Cirovic and Milenkovic, 2003
LiechtensteinPresentIntroduced Invasive Winter, 2006
LuxembourgLocalisedIntroduced1970s Invasive Frantz et al., 2005Widespread in north, sporadic in south
NetherlandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Cirovic and Milenkovic, 2003
PolandLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Bartoszewicz et al., 2008Located in western region
Russian FederationPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Russian Far EastIntroduced, establishment uncertainIntroducedAliev and Sanderson, 1966
-Southern RussiaLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Winter, 2006Introduced to the Caucasia region
SlovakiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Cirovic and Milenkovic, 2003
SloveniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Cirovic and Milenkovic, 2003
SwitzerlandLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Winter, 2006
Yugoslavia (former)PresentIntroduced Invasive Cirovic and Milenkovic, 2003
Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)PresentIntroduced1998 Invasive Cirovic and Milenkovic, 2003First specimen collected 5 km from the village of Lipar

History of Introduction and Spread

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P. lotor dramatically increased in abundance across North America beginning in the 1940s, with a concomitant increase in distribution. From 1920 to 1987, the total estimated geographic range in North America increased from 6.6 million km2 to 8.8 million km2 (Sanderson, 1987). Sanderson (1987) estimated there were 15-20 times as many raccoons in North America during the 1980s as there were in the 1930s. With recent declines in pelt value and a concomitant reduction in harvest, raccoons may have experienced another significant population increase and North American range expansion during the 1990s (Gehrt et al., 2002). Some range extensions were the result of introductions, such as islands off the coast of southeastern Alaska (Scheffer, 1947) and the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia (Hartman and Eastman, 1999). P. lotor was rarely observed in the prairie provinces of Canada until the 1960s and 1970s, when it expanded northward (Larivière, 2004). Larivière (2004) suggested that the northward expansion of the range may be a result of agriculture and a warming climate, although accidental transport of animals by people may also have played a role.   Island populations from the West Indies previously considered endemic insular species are now considered introduced, invasive populations of P. lotor (Helgen and Wilson, 2003; Helgen et al., 2008). P. lotor was likely introduced to Barbados between 1650-1680, to Providence Island in the Bahamas sometime prior to 1784 and Grand Providence in 1932-1933, and to Guadeloupe sometime prior to 1886 (Helgen and Wilson, 2002). It was eradicated from Barbados by 1972, but still survives on Providence Island and Guadeloupe (Helgen and Wilson, 2002). A report of P. lotor on Jamaica is questionable, and there is no evidence of the species currently on the island (Helgen and Wilson, 2002). It is likely that these introductions were facilitated by people.

Aliev and Sanderson (1966) reported at least 26 intentional releases of P. lotor, from 1936 to 1958, across parts of the former USSR, involving 1243 individuals. Release sites were focused in the Caucasus region (504 individuals), Azerbaijan area (120 individuals), Belarus (130 individuals), and the Dal’niy Vostok region (Primorsky Krai, Russian Far East; 489 individuals). Introduction stock was acquired from facilities and zoos in Germany and Russia, as well as wild-caught individuals from the Azerbaijan area following releases there. These releases of P. lotor were part of a national program to enhance fur production. By 1964, the authors estimated a self-sustaining population of 40,000-45,000.  
 
The western European range of P. lotor is primarily the result of three introduction events. P. lotor was first intentionally introduced in Germany in 1934, apparently successfully. A second release near Berlin in 1945 was accidental, when a breeding facility was damaged during the war (Lutz, 1995). A third release occurred in western France in 1966, when raccoons were intentionally released by U.S. military personnel (Leger, 1999). Following these releases, P. lotor has increased in number and invaded 13 adjacent countries.
 
Ikeda et al. (2004) described three primary introduction events in Japan, each accidental, although there have likely been multiple incidental releases. The first invasion occurred in 1962 in Aichi Prefecture, when some individuals escaped from a zoo; others were abandoned by a breeder in Gifu Prefecture in 1982. Similarly, notable escapes were recorded in 1979 in Eniwa City, Hokkaido Prefecture and in Kamakura City in 1988. Multiple escapes and releases have occurred in Hokkaido and elsewhere since then. Following introduction, P. lotor rapidly colonized and is currently the most abundant medium-sized carnivore on the island of Hokkaido (Suzuki et al., 2003). Colonization in Japan has been most rapid in areas marked by agricultural and urban development. P. lotor doubled its range over a 3-year period (2001-2003) in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan (Hayama et al., 2006). Since its initial release in 1988 in Kamakua City, P. lotor is now established throughout the city (Ikeda et al., 2004). 

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Azerbaijan 1941-1957 Yes No Aliev and Sanderson (1966) Introduced from Western European farms, Russian zoos
Bahamas < 1784 Yes No Helgen and Wilson (2002)
Barbados 1650-1680 Yes No Helgen and Wilson (2002)
Belarus Azerbaijan 1954-1957 Yes No Aliev and Sanderson (1966)
France USA 1966 Pet trade (pathway cause) Yes No Leger (1999)
Germany USA < 1934 Botanical gardens and zoos (pathway cause) Yes No Lutz (1995)
Germany USA < 1945 Yes No Lutz (1995)
Guadeloupe < 1886 Yes No Helgen and Wilson (2002)
Prince Edward Island Early 1900s Yes No PEI Fisheries Aquaculture and Environment (2000)
Russian Federation Azerbaijan 1941-1958 Yes No Aliev and Sanderson (1966)

Risk of Introduction

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The broad ecological niche of P. lotor allows it to exploit a wide range of habitats, and largely explains the success of its colonization as an alien species. Its value as a furbearer prompted introductions to the former Soviet Union, and the establishment of fur farms from which releases occurred in western Europe. However, P. lotor can exert ecological impacts on local fauna through predation, competition, or disease transmission.  These ecological risks associated with the species exceed the economic value from the fur; intentional introduction programs at the international level are discouraged, and have not occurred since the 1960s. Nevertheless, accidental releases of captive individuals from zoos or breeding facilities may still occur, such as in Japan. The species is common in the pet trade, which increases the risk of accidental introduction (S. Roy, FERA, Sand Hutton, UK, personal communication, 2014). Where P. lotor becomes established, it can have economic impacts on agricultural production through crop and fowl depredation, and it can have health and economic implications through its role as host to various zoonoses, some of which are lethal to humans. 

Habitat

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P. lotor occurs in a wide range of habitats; however, those associated with water are always important (Kaufmann, 1982). It exhibits a strong affinity for woodlands near water or wetlands (Gehrt, 2003), and woodlots are used heavily in all types of landscapes. Upland habitats, such as pastures and grasslands, are typically avoided, but P. lotor will use linear features such as fence rows, shelter belts, and roads as travel lanes (Fritzell, 1978; Glueck et al., 1988). It is a regular inhabitant of urban landscapes, and densities can reach overabundant levels where anthropogenic resources are available (Gehrt, 2004).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Freshwater
Terrestrial
 
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Principal habitat Natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Industrial / intensive livestock production systems Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Industrial / intensive livestock production systems Present, no further details Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Principal habitat Natural
Buildings Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Buildings Principal habitat Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Principal habitat Natural
Natural grasslands Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Riverbanks Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Principal habitat Natural
Wetlands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Wetlands Principal habitat Natural
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Natural
Littoral
Coastal areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Principal habitat Natural
Coastal dunes Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal dunes Principal habitat Natural
Mangroves Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Mangroves Principal habitat Natural
Mud flats Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Mud flats Principal habitat Natural
Intertidal zone Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Intertidal zone Principal habitat Natural
Salt marshes Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Salt marshes Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The diploid number of chromosomes for P. lotor is 38 (Kaufmann, 1982); however, 2n = 42 has been reported for some raccoons of unknown origin (Lotze and Anderson, 1979). Hybridization between P. lotor and other Procyonidae has not been observed.
 
Reproductive Biology
 
Males of P. lotor possess a bicurved baculum that can reach a length of 92-111 mm (Kaufmann, 1982), and is curved downward with a bifurcated anterior end. In females, the uterus is intermediate between bicornuate and bipartite, with a single cervix and two distinct horns.  An os clitoridis is rarely found in raccoons (Rinker, 1944) and is much smaller than the baculum (Sanderson and Nalbandov, 1973). The placenta is deciduous, and placental scars remain for months following parturition. Raccoons typically have six mammae, although eight have been observed for some individuals (Sanderson, 1987). Ovulation is spontaneous (Sanderson and Nalbandov, 1973; Sanderson, 1987). Corpora lutea are formed following pregnancy or pseudopregnancy, and disappear 14-16 days after parturition (Sanderson and Nalbandov, 1973). The nipples become enlarged and, in many cases, pigmented upon the formation of corpora lutea. Juvenile females may ovulate during their first mating season and produce litters as yearlings, although the actual percentage that does so varies greatly among years and among populations, and is usually less than the 68-100% for adults (Gehrt, 2003). In males, testis size fluctuates seasonally. Most mating occurs during February and March throughout much of North America, and somewhat later at more southern latitudes (Gehrt, 2003). P. lotor is typically monoestrous; a second oestrus may occur only if the first litter is lost soon after parturition (Gehrt and Fritzell, 1998), and no third periods of oestrus within 1 year have been observed even under experimental conditions. Gestation is about 63 days (Kaufmann, 1982; Sanderson, 1987); however, a range of 54-70 days has been reported (Gehrt, 2003). The number of young per litter is usually 3-4, but this varies with the latitude and the age of the female (Fritzell et al., 1985; Ritke, 1990). Females rear litters without assistance, and may exclude other raccoons from the natal den (Gehrt, 2003). 
 
Physiology and Phenology
 
P. lotor has a higher mass-specific basal metabolic rate than other procyonids, which may partially explain why this species has a more widespread distribution than other procyonids (Mugaas et al., 1993). Adults of both sexes experience notable weight gains during autumn and weight loss during winter and early spring (Mech et al., 1968; Johnson, 1970; Moore and Kennedy, 1985). Timing and magnitude of these fluctuations change with latitude. Raccoons in northern latitudes lose >50% of their body weight during winter where extreme winter conditions occur over extended periods (Stuewer, 1943; Mech et al., 1968). During winter, raccoons in temperate climates may enter a dormant period and remain inactive in dens for weeks or months. The heart rate does not decrease during winter dormancy, and may even increase during prolonged winter denning (Folk et al., 1968). Similarly, body temperature does not decrease during winter denning. Because raccoons do not decrease their metabolic rate during winter denning, they metabolize fat reserves gained during autumn. Thus, the length of time a raccoon can remain inactive will be affected primarily by the amount of fat deposited during the previous autumn. Capacity of the alimentary canal may change with altered energetic requirements. Derting (1996) reported that lactating females have greater masses of stomach, colon, and gastrointestinal tract than do nonreproductive females and males. This difference suggests that the energetic demands of reproduction and lactation stimulate a physiological response in the alimentary canal. However, Derting (1996) observed no seasonal differences in gut capacity between summer and winter for males.
 
Nutrition
 
Many studies of the diet of P. lotor across its range have reported on the wide diversity of food items. Nearly all studies have suggested that P. lotor diets reflect availability of food items, and that they are highly opportunistic at exploiting foods they prefer (Lotze and Anderson, 1979; Greenwood, 1981). Stains (1956) recorded a conservative number of 43 animal species and 33 plant species in the diet of a single population over an annual period. In most systems, plant foods comprise a notable portion of the diet in all seasons, although their relative importance varies seasonally (Kaufmann, 1982; Gehrt, 2003). For example, during Stuewer’s (1943) study, acorns represented the single dominant food item in all seasons, and overall plants constituted the most common food item in all seasons except spring. Animals associated with riparian areas such as crayfish, amphibians, and clams were more common in spring. In landscapes dominated by agriculture, grain crops, especially corn, often replace acorns as important food items.  Although plant foods are important in most systems, in some locations or seasons animal prey (e.g., molluscs, shrimp, crabs and fish) make up a large proportion of the diet (Tyson, 1950; Dorney, 1954). In urban areas, P. lotor exploit anthropogenic resources such as pet food, bird feed, and human refuse (Kaufmann, 1982; Prange et al., 2004). When nesting prey species are concentrated in space and time, P. lotor can be significant predators on eggs or nestlings. Examples include seabirds (Kadlec, 1971; Hartman et al., 1997), waterfowl (Urban, 1970; Greenwood, 1981), songbirds (Robinson et al., 1995), and reptiles (Davis and Whiting, 1977; Hopkins et al., 1978; Christiansen and Gallaway, 1984). P. lotor predation can be particularly acute on islands where the species has been introduced. On islands where seabirds form colonies and nest in burrows, P. lotor can depredate birds in all stages of their life history (Hartman and Eastman, 1999). 
 
Environmental Requirements
 
P. lotor is found in a wide range of habitats and climates. It has a high water requirement (Stuewer, 1943) so it occurs in relatively low numbers in arid environments. Its geographic range is limited by extreme winter weather combined with the limited cover and resources found at high altitudes and northern latitudes (Mugaas and Seidensticker, 1993). P. lotor has behavioral and physical characteristics that allow it to occur in much colder environments than any other member of the Procyonidae, such as a winter pelt (Mugaas et al., 1993), use of a wide range of den types (Gehrt, 2003), communal denning, and the ability to deposit fat reserves to lean muscle mass prior to winter (Mugaas and Seidensticker, 1993). During winter, P. lotor in temperate climates may enter a dormant period and remain inactive in dens for weeks or months, particularly when snow cover is extensive. Because P. lotor do not decrease their metabolic rate during winter denning (Folk et al., 1968), they metabolize fat reserves gained during autumn, and the length of time a raccoon can remain inactive will be affected primarily by the amount of fat deposited during the previous autumn. Thus, P. lotor is limited where the time of snow cover and extreme winter temperatures exceed that during which the fat reserves can sustain it. The species has exhibited a recent range expansion northward through Canada and Alaska, and such expansions are likely to continue as the global climate warms and the human population continues to grow.

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
Ds - Continental climate with dry summer Tolerated Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
9-55

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Alligator mississippiensis Predator All Stages not specific Gehrt, 2003
Bubo bubo Predator Juvenile not specific Winter, 2006
Canis latrans Predator All Stages not specific Gehrt, 2003
Felis concolor Predator All Stages not specific Gehrt, 2003
Lynx rufus Predator All Stages not specific Gehrt, 2003
Vulpes vulpes Predator Juvenile not specific Winter, 2006

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Species reported as potential predators of P. lotor include coyotes (Canis latrans), bobcats (Lynx rufus), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), owls (multiple species), alligators (Alligator mississippiensis), pumas (Felis concolor) (Stains, 1956; Johnson, 1970; Kaufmann, 1982; Shoop and Ruckdeschel, 1990; Gehrt, 2003), wolves (Canis lupus) and bears (Ursus spp.) (S. Roy, FERA, Sand Hutton, UK, personal communcation, 2014). Predation by red foxes and owls is probably restricted to young raccoons. However, predation is probably not an important cause of mortality in most raccoon populations (Gehrt, 2003), and no studies have identified predation as a controlling mechanism for P. lotor populations. P. lotor hosts a variety of ecto- and endoparasites, and their relative importance in the ecology of the species probably depends on geographical location, season, and the age and sex of the host. At least 10 species of fleas (Siphonaptera), 1 species of sucking louse (Anoplura), 6 species of chewing lice (Mallophaga), and 14 species of ticks and mites (Acari) have been reported for P. lotor (summarized in Stains, 1956). At least 56 species of endoparasites have been identified in P. lotor (Stains, 1956; Johnson, 1970), including Protozoa (4 species), flatworms (Platyhelminthes; 22 species), Nematoda (27 species), and spiny-headed worms (Acanthocephala; 3 species). The list of viruses and bacteria associated with the species is long, and continues to grow (reviewed by Stains, 1956; Johnson, 1970; and Gehrt, 2003); however, notable epizootics that impact population numbers are most often associated with canine distemper virus (Roscoe, 1993; Schubert et al., 1998; Mitchell et al., 1999) and raccoon strain rabies (Rosatte et al., 2006).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natal dispersal usually takes place during the autumn by raccoons at 0.5 or 1.5 years of age, and sometimes during the spring at approximately 1 year of age (Stuewer, 1943; Urban, 1970; Gehrt and Fritzell, 1998). At more northern latitudes, natal dispersal takes place after the first winter (Schneider et al., 1971; Fritzell, 1977). However, at southern latitudes dispersal may take place at any time and individual differences in sexual maturation may explain variations in the timing of dispersal (Gehrt and Fritzell, 1998). Male-biased dispersal has been reported for most studies (reviewed by Gehrt, 2003), although female dispersal also may occur occasionally. Dispersal distances are difficult to determine, and may be underestimated in many studies. Distances up to 33 km have been reported from multiple mark-recapture and radiotelemetry studies (Stuewer, 1943; Fritzell, 1977; Clark et al., 1989; Gehrt and Fritzell, 1998), and Seidensticker et al. (1998) reported a maximum dispersal distance of 10.9 km during their study. An exceptional distance of 275 km was reported for 2 males on separate occasions (Priewert, 1961; Lynch, 1967). 

Accidental Introduction
 
P. lotor escaped from a captive facility in Germany in 1945 as a result of war activity (Lutz, 1995). Escapes from captivity and abandonment by pet owners are responsible for free-ranging P. lotor in Japan (Ikeda et al., 2004). Apparent escapes from fur farms are responsible for the invasion of P. lotor on Prince Edward Island (PEI Fisheries, Aquaculture and Environment, 2000). 
 
P. lotor may occasionally be transported accidentally on vehicles. Most movements of this type are over a short distance, but some long distance movements may occur and may have facilitated expansions of the natural range (Larivière, 2004), as well as accelerated the spread of rabies from the United States to Canada (Rosatte et al., 2007a).
 
The species is common in the pet trade, which increases the risk of accidental introduction (S. Roy, FERA, Sand Hutton, UK, personal communication, 2014).
 
Intentional Introduction
 
P. lotor was intentionally released in Germany in 1934 (Lutz, 1995) and France in 1966 (Leger, 1999), and at least 26 intentional releases occurred in various locations throughout the former USSR during 1936-1958 (Aliev and Sanderson, 1966). Numerous releases have occurred within the native range in the United States (Wright, 1977; Sanderson, 1987). It was the translocation of a small group of P. lotor in the eastern United States during the late 1970s that resulted in the dramatic rabies epizootic that has swept across the Atlantic coast over the past 30 years (Gehrt, 2003).

 

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Cultural/amenity Positive and negative
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative
Human health Negative

Economic Impact

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P. lotor represents an important economic cost around the world as a host of disease, particularly rabies, as a nuisance species in urban areas, and as a pest in agricultural systems. 

The raccoon rabies outbreak in the eastern United States has had substantial economic consequences. For example, costs associated with raccoon rabies in 2 counties in New Jersey were $405,565 per 100,000 human population during the pre-epizootic period, and $979,027 per 100,000 population during the epizootic period (Uhaa et al., 1992). Cost of rabies control in these counties increased by $1.2 million from 1988 (prior to raccoon rabies) to 1990 when raccoon rabies was introduced to the area. In the state of Connecticut, the estimated number of people receiving a post-exposure prophylaxis following exposure to the virus increased from 41 in 1990 to 887 in 1994. The median cost of these treatments was $1500 per person (Nelson et al., 1996). Similarly, expenditures associated with raccoon rabies in New York increased 4000% during the outbreak from 1989 to 1993 (Wyatt et al., 1999).
 
Because of its ubiquitous distribution and adaptability to human-dominated landscapes, P. lotor is a frequently reported nuisance species in urbanized areas (de Almeida, 1987) and represents a significant cost to homeowners when it causes damage to structures (Gehrt, 2004). For example, Gehrt (2003) estimated the economic costs of raccoons in the greater Chicago metropolitan area in the United States to be over $1,000,000 in 1999. 
 
P. lotor is an important cause of crop losses, and is the primary cause of damage to corn crops (maize – Zea mays) in most regions of North America (DeVault et al., 2007). Significant agricultural damage from P. lotor also is reported from Japan (Kotani et al., 2009) and parts of Europe (Bartoszewicz et al., 2008).

Environmental Impact

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In areas where P. lotor becomes overabundant, such as urban parks or woodlots, predation on a wide range of vertebrate prey may be quite high (Robinson et al., 1995). Ground-nesting birds, such as waterfowl, may be particularly vulnerable (Greenwood et al., 1990; Garrettson and Rohwer, 2001); hole-nesting species can also suffer competition for nest sites (S. Roy, FERA, Sand Hutton, UK, personal communication, 2014). P. lotor may impact other species through the transmission of certain diseases, such as canine distemper or raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis). A wide range of avian and mammalian species have been documented as potentially affected by B. procyonis (Kazacos and Boyce, 1989; Page et al., 1998).

Impact on Biodiversity

P. lotor may impact prey species through elevated predation rates. It reduces nesting success of avian and reptile species, particularly in fragmented landscapes, and this may contribute to threatening rare species. P. lotor predation can be acute where its population is overabundant, or where prey species are restricted to small patches of habitat (Robinson et al., 1995).   P. lotor has been implicated in threatening rare species that nest on the ground or in burrows, such as sea turtles (Davis and Whiting, 1977) and sea birds (Hartman et al., 1997; Hartman and Eastman, 1999). The Allegheny woodrat (Neotoma magister) has become threatened through the transmission of Baylisascaris procyonis (Logiudice, 2003). In Japan, P. lotor may compete with, and exclude, the native Nyctereutes procyonoides (Ikeda et al., 2004; Abe et al., 2006). Hayama et al. (2006) suggested that the invasion of P. lotor throughout Japan has negatively impacted native prey species, including the endangered Hynobius tokyoensis, Corbicula leana (sometimes considered a synonym of C. fluminea), Helice tridens, and Holometopus haematocheir (Chiromantes haematocheir).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Caretta caretta (loggerhead sea turtle)VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesPredationDavis and Whiting, 1977
Chelonia mydas (green sea turtle)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesPredationRatnaswamy and Warren, 1998
Chiromantes haematocheirNo DetailsPredationHayama et al., 2006
Dermochelys coriaceaVU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable)PredationRatnaswamy and Warren, 1998
Helice tridensNo DetailsPredationHayama et al., 2006
Hynobius tokyoensisNo details No detailsPredationHayama et al., 2006
Neotoma magisterNT (IUCN red list: Near threatened) NT (IUCN red list: Near threatened)Pest and disease transmissionLogiudice, 2003
Nyctereutes procyonoides (raccoon dog)No DetailsCompetition - monopolizing resourcesIkeda et al., 2004
Synthliboramphus antiquusLC (IUCN red list: Least concern) LC (IUCN red list: Least concern)British ColumbiaPredationHartman et al., 1997
Crocodylus acutus (American crocodile)VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesFloridaPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2007b
Eretmochelys imbricata (hawksbill turtle)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesAlabama; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Mississippi; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New York; North Carolina; Rhode Island; South Carolina; Texas; VirginiaPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2007c
Gila ditaenia (Sonora chub)VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable); USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesArizonaPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1992
Polyborus plancus audubonii (Audubon's crested caracara)USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009
Potamilus inflatus (inflated heelsplitter)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesAlabama; Louisiana; MississippiPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1990
Sylvilagus palustris hefneri (Lower Keys marsh rabbit)National list(s) National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesFloridaPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2007d
Zapus hudsoniusUSA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesColorado; WyomingPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013
Rana chiricahuensis (Chiricahua leopard frog)VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable)Arizona; New MexicoPredationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2007a

Social Impact

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P. lotor is susceptible to a number of diseases which have public health consequences for humans and their pets. Among the primary concerns for humans or domestic animals are rabies, raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis), leptospirosis (Kazacos and Boyce, 1989; Jenkins et al., 1988; Wandeler et al., 2000; Rosatte, 2000; Rosatte et al., 2006; Rosatte et al., 2007b) and echinococcosis (S. Roy, FERA, Sand Hutton, UK, personal communication, 2014).

It can also act as a nuisance species, for example causing damage to structures -- see Economic Impact section.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Conflict
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Negatively impacts aquaculture/fisheries
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Predation
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

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Economic Value

Historically, P. lotor has been one of the most economically important mammals in North America through its role as a furbearer or game species (Sanderson, 1987). They are trapped during an autumn-winter harvest season and may be pursued by hunters with dogs in some states of the USA. In a few states in the southeast, pursuit with dogs is permitted during the summer. Because of the large numbers of raccoons taken annually, the species generates a large revenue through the sales of pelts. In 1982, revenue of P. lotor pelts in North America reached a peak of $100 million generated from 5 million harvested animals (Sanderson, 1987). Although pelt prices declined in the late 1980s and 1990s, P. lotor remained one of the most economically important furbearers in North America (Shieff and Baker, 1987; Gehrt et al., 2002; Gehrt, 2003). A relatively small number of animals are harvested annually from Europe and the Caucasus region.
 
The species is common in the pet trade (S. Roy, FERA, Sand Hutton, UK, personal communication, 2014).
 
Social Benefit
 
The meat of P. lotor is consumed in some parts of North American and eastern Europe (Sanderson, 1987). P. lotor is often used as a bioindicator of environmental pollutants, such as heavy metals, chemicals, and radioactivity because of its omnivorous diet and preference for foraging in aquatic or riparian areas (Gaines et al., 2000). P. lotor has cultural value in some parts of the United States where ‘hounding’ is a sporting activity. Dogs are bred specifically for their ability to pursue and ‘tree’ raccoons, and cultural groups are centered around hounding activities. P. lotor was originally imported to Japan because of its popularity as a pet following the creation in the 1970s of a highly popular cartoon character (Ikeda et al., 2004).  Gehrt (2004) argued that, as P. lotor is the most abundant mammalian carnivore in many cities within its range, a large segment of the public is exposed to wildlife and conservation issues through this species.  The affinity the public holds for P. lotor is illustrated in Germany, where Hohmann et al. (2001) interviewed residents of one village where the species was present, and reported that 100% were aware of its presence, and 76% had raccoons using their properties. However, 89% did not consider raccoons a nuisance, even though 33% believed that raccoons raided garbage cans and 52% attributed losses from fruit trees to the species.    
 
Environmental Services
 
P. lotor may serve as an important seed disperser, given its penchant for fruit as a dietary item, and ingestion may enhance germination rates for some fruit or tree species (Cypher and Cypher, 1999). In general, ecological services have rarely been identified for this species although they probably serve important functions in some systems (Ratnaswamy and Warren, 1998).

Uses List

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General

  • Botanical garden/zoo
  • Pet/aquarium trade
  • Sport (hunting, shooting, fishing, racing)

Human food and beverage

  • Meat/fat/offal/blood/bone (whole, cut, fresh, frozen, canned, cured, processed or smoked)

Materials

  • Skins/leather/fur

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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P. lotor closely resembles its congener P. cancrivorus, but differs in having relatively slightly shorter features, such as a shorter snout and legs in proportion to the body, and the species are sympatric only in Panama and Costa Rica (Hall, 1981). In eastern Europe and Japan, P. lotor may co-occur with Nyctereutes procyonoides, a member of the Canidae that also possesses a black mask and a body type similar to P. lotor. However, N. procyonoides has the characteristic four-toed digitigrade footprint and does not have a ringed tail. 

Prevention and Control

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Prevention

Countries should prohibit the importation of P. lotor, even if they are to remain in captivity, because many introductions have been accidental, such as in Japan (Ikeda et al., 2004). Natural expansion from introductions may be slowed through harvest or targeted removals while the populations are still low in abundance. 
 
Eradication
 
Eradication of P. lotor has only been possible for some small islands, despite intense trapping and bounties over large areas. 
 
Containment/Zoning
 
The locomotive capabilities of P. lotor make containment or zoning unfeasible. However, regulatory agencies can minimize human-assisted movements by prohibiting translocation of living P. lotor, as many eastern states in the United States have done in response to a rabies epizootic. 
 
Control
 
Cultural control and sanitary measures
 
To reduce nuisance problems, prevention should be encouraged through public education programs. Human conflicts with P. lotor can be minimized by removing food sources (such as trash) and preventing access to buildings and homes (Gehrt, 2003).   
 
Physical/mechanical control
 
Lethal removal of P. lotor via shooting or targeted trapping and euthanasia has been employed at the local level for protection of sea turtle nests on beaches (Christiansen and Gallaway, 1984; Ratnaswamy and Warren, 1998), bird nests on islands (Hartman and Eastman, 1999), and waterfowl nests during the nesting season (Greenwood et al., 1990; Garrettson and Rohwer, 2001). Similarly, Kotani et al. (2009) found that local extermination of P. lotor to reduce agricultural damage in Japan may be effective in reducing costs. Prior to 2004, P. lotor control in Japan was unstructured and conducted at the local level in response to nuisance conflicts. However, because of the concern regarding alien mammals, an Invasive Alien Species Act was passed in 2004 with a goal of a more systematic national effort to eradicate P. lotor (Ikeda et al., 2004). In response to this national initiative to control invasive species, some provincial governments in Japan have initiated large-scale extermination programs to capture and lethally remove as many P. lotor as possible (Kotani et al., 2009). 
 
Movement control
 
Apparently no intentional releases of P. lotor to new countries or continents have occurred since the 1970s.  Some intentional and accidental translocations occur within its native range in North America, although most states within the raccoon strain rabies epizootic area have severe restrictions on the capture and release of free-ranging raccoons.
 
Biological control
 
No information is available on any biological control methods attempted on this species.
 
Chemical control
 
In North America, poisons have historically been used for general predator control, including P. lotor, but this practice was not selective among species and is currently not used in most areas. 
 
Hunting/trapping for fur
 
P. lotor is an important furbearer in North America based on the volume and economic value of annual harvests (Sanderson, 1987); consequently it has largely been managed in its native range through regulating the legal fur harvest. Where fur harvest occurs, hunting and trapping is usually the predominant cause of mortality for the species (Gehrt, 2003). Harvesting appeared to reduce P. lotor populations at a large scale when pelt prices were at their highest in the 1970s and early 1980s, but the North American population increased dramatically when pelt prices dropped during the last decade of the 20th century (Gehrt et al., 2002). Some European countries use fur harvest efforts to control P. lotor numbers. In Poland, P. lotor received game status in 2004 (Bartoszewicz et al., 2008), and legal harvest of P. lotor occurs over much of Germany (Lutz, 1995) and the Caucasus region. However, as harvest intensity is largely determined by pelt prices and market demand (Sanderson, 1987; Gehrt et al., 2002), it is unlikely to effectively reduce population numbers where complete removal or extermination is desired. Indeed, Sanderson (1987) observed that numbers of harvested P. lotor fluctuated annually as a response to pelt price and weather, and that management regulations had little effect on populations. Harvest regulations are even less influential when pelt prices are low and there is little hunting or trapping activity. In Poland, game status for P. lotor has apparently not been sufficient to stem the expansion of the animal in that country, especially in urban areas (Bartosiewicz et al., 2008).
 
Monitoring and surveillance
 
Large-scale monitoring of P. lotor is conducted by many states across the United States, and such monitoring should be implemented in countries adjacent to known areas of alien P. lotor populations. Reports from hunter and trapper observations are collected by agencies. P. lotor is often captured incidentally in traps set for other furbearers, so trappers may report such captures. Spotlight surveys and road-kill surveys are commonly employed. Road-kill surveys are particularly useful and inexpensive for monitoring the presence and spatial distribution of P. lotor (Gehrt et al., 2002; Gehrt, 2003).

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Little information is available on the current distribution and abundance of P. lotor in some parts of eastern Europe and especially areas adjacent to the Caucasus region. Likewise, there is virtually no information on the ecological impacts of P. lotor on native wildlife in Europe or Japan. As P. lotor populations continue to increase, it is likely that a variety of prey species will be negatively affected (Hayama et al., 2006). 

References

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Abe G, Ikeda T, Tatsuzawa S, 2006. Differences in habitat use of the native raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) and the invasive alien raccoon (Procyon lotor) in the Nopporo Natural Forest Park, Hokkaido, Japan. In: Assessment and control of biological invasion risks [ed. by Koike F, Clout MN, Kawamichi M, DePoorter M, Iwatsuki K]. Kyoto, Japan: SHOUKADOH Book Sellers, 116-121

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
Animal Diversity Webhttp://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/index.html
DAISIE Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europehttp://www.europe-aliens.org/index.jsp
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS)http://griis.org/Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
IUCN-ISSG Invasive Species Grouphttp://www.issg.org/

Organizations

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World: Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG), Web based, http://www.issg.org/contact.htm

Europe: DAISIE - Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe, Web-based service, http://www.europe-aliens.org

Contributors

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05/10/09 original text by:

Stanley Gehrt, School of Environment & Natural Resources, Ohio State Univ., 375B Kottman Hall, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1095, USA

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