61            Raccoon

                             PROCYON LOTOR.--Linn.


                          PLATE LXI.--MALE AND YOUNG.

     P. corpore supra canescente plus minus in nigrum vergente, infra, auriculis
pedibusque albicantibus; facie albida, fascia sub oculari oblique nigra, cauda
rufescente annulis 4-5 nigris.

     Body above, grayish mixed with black; ears, and beneath, whitish; a black
patch across the eye.  Tail with 4 or 5 annulations of black and gray.


     ARECON, Smith's Voyages, xiii., p. 31.
     URSUS LOTOR, Linn., 12th ed., p. 70.
     URSUS LOTOR, Erxleben, Syst., p. 165-4.
     URSUS LOTOR, Schreber Saugth., p. 521, 5 t. 143.
     LE RATON, Buffon, vol. viii., p. p. 337, t. xliii.
     RACCOON BEAR, Pennant's Arct. Zool., vol. i., p. 69.
     PROCYON LOTOR, CUV., Regne Animal, vol. i., p. 143.
     PROCYON LOTOR, Sabine, Journal, p. 649.
     PROCYON LOTOR, Harlan, p. 5,9.
     PROCYON LOTOR, Godman, vol. i., p. 53.
     PROCYON LOTOR, Dekay, New-York Fauna, p. 26.
     PROCYON NIVEA, Gray, Magazine of Nat. Hist., vol. i., 1837, p. 580.


     The body is rather stout, the legs of moderate length, and the appearance
of the animal would indicate that although he is not intended for great speed,
he is still by his compact and well organized structure, his strong and muscular
limbs and short and stout claws, capable of a tolerably rapid race, and is able
to climb, although not with the agility of the squirrel, still with greater
alacrity than his near relative the bear.
     Head, rather round; nose, tapering, sharp, and the snout moveable; point of
the nose, naked; eyes, round, and of moderate size:  moustaches, few, very
rigid, resembling bristles, extending to the chin; ears, low, erect, elliptical,
with their tips much rounded, clothed with hair on both sides; on the inner
surface the hairs are longer and less dense; tail, of moderate length and bushy.
In its feet the Raccoon is partially plantigrade, hence it was classed by
LINNAUS among the bears, under the genus Ursus; soles of feet, naked.  When it
sits, it often brings the whole hind sole to the ground, resting in the manner
of the bear.  The canine teeth are large and extend beyond the lips.  The nails
are strong, hooked and sharp, not covered with hair.  The body is densely
clothed with two kinds of hair; the outer and longer, long and coarse; the
inner, softer and more like wool.


     Point of nose, and soles of feet, black; nails, dark brown; moustaches,
nearly all white; ears, lips, above the snout and chin, dingy white; above the
eyes, and around the forehead, light gray.  A dark brown patch extends from each
side of the neck and passes the eyes, over the nose, nearly reaching the snout,
and gradually fading on the forehead into the colours of the back; eyes, black;
the longer hairs on the back are dark brown at the roots, then yellowish-white
for half their length, and are, broadly tipped with black; the softer fur
beneath, pale brown throughout the whole body; on the sides and belly, the
longer hairs are dingy white from the roots; the tail has about six distinct
black rings, and is tipped with black; these rings alternate with five light
yellowish-brown annulations.


Old male, received from Dr. JOHN WRIGHT.


     Nose to anterior canthus.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     1 3/8
     Nose to corner of mouth,.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     2 1/4
     Nose to root of ear, .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     7 3/8
     Nose to root of tail,.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    26 1/2
     Tail, (vertebrae),.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     8
     Tail, to end of hair,.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     9 1/2
     Length of head,   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     7 1/2
     Breadth of head,  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     4 1/8
                                Weight, 22 lbs.


     The Raccoon is a cunning animal, is easily tamed, and makes a pleasant
monkey-like pet.  It is quite dexterous in the use of its fore-feet, and will
amble after its master in the manner of a bear, and even follow him into the
streets.  It is fond of eggs, and devours them raw or cooked with avidity, but
prefers them raw of course, and if it finds a nest will feast on them morning,
noon and night without being satiated.  It will adroitly pick its keeper's
pockets of anything it likes to eat, and is always on the watch for dainties.
The habits of the muscles (unios) that inhabit our fresh water rivers are better
known to the Raccoon than to most conchologists, and their flavour is as highly
relished by this animal as is that of the best bowl of clam soup by the epicure
in that condiment.
     Being an expert climber, the Raccoon ascends trees with facility and
frequently invades the nest of the woodpecker, although it may be secure against
ordinary thieves, by means of his fore-feet getting bold of the eggs or the
young birds.  He watches too the soft-shelled turtle when she is about to
deposit her eggs, for which purpose she leaves the water and crawling on to the
white sand-bar, digs a hole and places them underneath the heated surface.
Quickly does the rogue dig up the elastic ova, although ever so carefully
covered, and appropriate them to his own use, notwithstanding the efforts of the
luckless turtle to conceal them.
     Sometimes, by the margin of a pond, shrouded, or crouched among tall reeds
and grasses, Grimalkin-like, the Raccoon lies still as death, waiting with
patience for some ill-fated duck that may come within his reach.  No negro on a
plantation knows with more accuracy when the corn (maize) is juicy and ready for
the connoisseur in roasting ears, and he does not require the aid of fire to
improve its flavour, but attacks it more voraciously than the squirrel or the
blackbird, and is the last to quit the cornfield.
     The favourite resorts of the Raccoon are retired swampy lands well covered
with lofty trees, and through which are small water-courses.  In such places its
tracks may be seen following the margins of the bayous and creeks, which it
occasionally crosses in search of frogs and muscles which are found on their
banks.  It also follows the margins of rivers for the same purpose, and is
dexterous in getting at the shell-fish, notwithstanding the hardness of the
siliceous covering with which nature has provided them.  In dry seasons, the
receding waters sometimes leave the muscles exposed to the heat of the sun,
which destroys their life and causes their shells to open, leaving them
accessible to the first animal or bird that approaches.
     In the dreary months of winter should you be encamped in any of the great
Western forests, obliged by the pitiless storm to remain for some days, as we
have been, you will not be unthankful if you have a fat Raccoon suspended on a
tree above your camp, for when kept awhile, the flesh of this species is both
tender and well-flavoured.
     The Raccoon when full grown and in good condition we consider quite a
handsome animal.  We have often watched him with interest, cautiously moving
from one trunk to another to escape his view.  His bright eye, however, almost
invariably detected us ere we could take aim at him, and he adroitly fled into a
hollow tree and escaped from us.
     We once met with one of these animals whilst we were travelling on
horseback from Henderson to Vincennes, on the edge of a large prairie in a
copse, and on approaching it ran up a small sapling from which we shook it off
with ease; but as soon as it reached the ground it opened its mouth and made
directly towards us, and looked so fierce, that drawing a pistol from our
holsters, we shot it dead when it was only a few feet from us.
     The young are at their birth quite small; (about the size of a half, grown
rat;) some that we saw in Texas were not more than two days old and were kept in
a barrel.  They uttered a plaintive cry not unlike the wail of an infant.
     The Raccoon usually produces from four to six young at a time, which are
generally brought forth early in May, although the period of their littering
varies in different latitudes.
     When the Indian corn is ripening, the Raccoons invade the fields to feast
on the rich milky grain, as we have just stated, and as the stalks are too weak
to bear the weight of these marauders, they generally break them down with their
fore-paws, tear off the husks from the ears, and then munch them at their
leisure.  During this inviting season, the Raccoon is not the only trespasser on
the corn fields, but various animals are attracted thither to receive their
portion, and even the merry schoolboy shares the feast with them, at the risk of
paying for his indulgence by incurring the necessity of a physician's
prescription the next day.  The havoc committed in the Western States by
squirrels and other animals is almost incalculable, and no vigilance of the
farmer can guard against the depredations of these hungry intruders, which
extend from farm to farm, and even penetrate to those embosomed in the forests,
where settlements are few and far between.
     The Raccoon is not strictly a nocturnal animal; and although it generally
visits the corn fields at night, sometimes feeds on the green corn during the
day; we have seen it thus employed during the heat of summer, and it will
occasionally enter a poultry house at mid-day, and destroy many of the feathered
inhabitants, contenting itself with the head and blood of the fowls it kills.
     The nest or lair of the Raccoon is usually made in the hollow of some
broken branch of a tree.  When tamed, these animals are seldom induced to lie or
sleep on a layer of straw.
     There exists a species of oyster in the Southern States of inferior quality
which bears the name of Raccoon Oyster:  it lies imbedded in masses in the
shallow waters of the rivers.  These oysters are covered by high tides, but are
exposed at low water.  On these the Raccoons are Fond of feeding, and we have on
several occasions seen them on the oyster banks.  We have however never had an
opportunity of ascertaining by personal observation the accuracy of a statement
which we have frequently heard made with great confidence, viz., that the
Raccoon at low tide in endeavouring to extricate these oysters from the shell,
is occasionally caught by the foot in consequence of the closing of the valve of
the shell fish, when numbers of these being clustered and imbedded together, the
Raccoon cannot drag them from their bed, and the returning tide drowns him.
     The naturalist has many difficulties to encounter when inquiring into facts
connected with his pursuit:  every one acquainted with the habits of even our
common species must know, that the information gained from most of those who
reside near their localities, from their want of particular observation, is
generally very limited, and probably the most interesting knowledge gained by
such queries, would be the result of a comparison of the accounts given at
different places.  From the Alleghany mountains, the swamps of Louisiana, and
the marshes of Carolina, we have received nearly the same history of the cunning
maneuvers and sly tricks of the Raccoon in procuring food.
     We add the following notes on a Raccoon kept for a considerable time in a
tame state or partially domesticated.
     When it first came into our possession it was about one-third grovrn.  By
kind treatment it soon became very docile, but from its well known mischievous
propensities we always kept it chained.
     It was truly omnivorous:  never refusing anything eatable, vegetable or
animal, cooked or uncooked, all was devoured with equal avidity.  Of some
articles however it seemed particularly fond:  as sugar, honey, chestnuts, fish
and poultry.  The animal would become almost frantic when either of the two
first was placed near it, but beyond its reach.  No means would be left untried
to obtain the dainty morsel.  It would rush forward as far as the chain
permitted, and stretch out a fore-paw toward the object of its wishes to its
utmost extent, which failing to reach it, the other was extended; again
disappointed, the hind limbs were tried in succession, by which there was a
nearer approach to the food, on account of the animal being chained by the neck.
     On being offered food when hungry, or roused up suddenly from any cause, or
when in active play, the eye was of a lustrous green, changing apparently the
whole countenance.
     It had a strong propensity to roll food and other things under its paws;
segars in particular, especially when lighted.  We have observed a similar
propensity in young bears.
     On placing a pail of water within its reach, it ran to it, and after
drinking would examine the contents to the bottom with the fore-paws, seemingly
expecting to find some fish or frog.  If any thing was found it was speedily
brought to the surface and scrutinized.  We have seen it throw chips, bits of
china and pebbles, &c., into the pail, and then fish them out for amusement, but
never saw it put a particle of its food in to soak, except in a few instances
when it threw in hard corn, but we do not think it was for this purpose.
     After playing for a short time in the water it would commonly urinate in it
and then upset the pail.
     We gave it a fish weighing two pounds.  The Raccoon turned it in all
directions in search of a convenient point of attack.  The mouth, nose, fins,
vent, &c., were tried.  At length an opening was made at the vent, in to which a
paw was deeply inserted; the intestines were withdrawn and eaten with avidity.
At the same time an attempt was made to insert the other paw into the mouth of
the fish to meet its fellow.  This disposition to use the paws in concert, was
shown in almost every action, sometimes in a very ludicrous manner.  On giving
the animal a jug one paw would be inserted in the aperture, and a hundred twists
and turns would be made to join its fellow on the outside.
     After devouring as much of the fish as it wished, it placed the paws on the
remainder and lay down to doze, until hunger returned, watching the favourite
food, and growling at any animal which happened to pass near it.  By degrees
this propensity to defend its food passed off, and it would allow the dog or fox
to partake of it freely.  We placed a half-grown fox within its reach: the
Raccoon instantly grasped it with its legs and paws and commenced a close
examination. It thrust its pointed nose in the ear of the fox to the very
bottom, smelling and snuffing as if determined to find out the nature of the
animal.  During this time it showed no disposition to injure the fox.
     The Raccoon can scent an object for some distance with accuracy.  We
suffered ours to go loose on one occasion, when it made directly for some small
marmots confined in a cage in another room.
     Our pet Raccoon whose habits we are relating evinced a singular propensity
to listen to things at a distance, however many persons were around him, even
though he might be at the moment eating a frog, of which food he was very fond.
He would apparently hear some distant noise, then raise his head and continue
listening, seeming every moment more absorbed; at last he would suddenly run and
hide himself in his burrow.  This seems to be connected with some instinct of
the animal in his wild state, probably whilst sitting on a tree sunning himself,
when he is in the habit of listening to hear the approach of an enemy, and then
hurrying to his hole in the tree.
     Enjoying the hospitality of a friend one night at his plantation, the
conversation turned on the habits of animals:  and in speaking of the Raccoon he
mentioned that it fed on birds and rabbits generally, but in winter robbed the
poultry houses.  The negroes on his plantation he said kept good dogs, and
relied on them for hunting the Raccoon.
     Whenever a Raccoon was about to attack the poultry house, the dogs scenting
him give a shrill cry, which is the signal for his owner to commence the hunt.
He comes out armed with an axe, with a companion or two, resolved on a Raccoon
hunt.  The dogs soon gives chase with such rapidity, that the Raccoon, hard
pressed, takes to a tree.  The dog, close at his heels, changes his whining cry
while running to a shrill short sharp bark.  If the tree is small or has limbs
near the ground so that it can be easily ascended, the eager hunters climb up
after the "coon."  He perceives his danger, endeavours to avoid his pursuers by
ascending to the farthest topmost branch, or the extremity of a limb; but all
his efforts are in vain, his relentless pursuers shake the limb until he is
compelled to let go his hold, and he comes toppling heavily to the ground, and
is instantly seized by the dogs.  It frequently happens however that the trees
are tall and destitute of lower branches so that they cannot be climbed without
the risk of life or limb.  The negroes survey for a few moments in the bright
moonlight the tall and formidable tree that shelters the coon, grumble a little
at the beast for not having saved them trouble by mounting an easier tree, and
then the ringing of their axes resounds through the still woods, awakening
echoes of the solitude previously disturbed only by the hooting of the owl, or
the impatient barking of the dogs.  In half an hour the tree, is brought to the
ground and with it the Raccoon, stunned by the fall:  his foes give him no time
to define his position, and after a short and bloody contest with the dogs, he
is despatched, and the sable hunters remunerated,--for his skin they will sell
to the hatters in the nearest town, and his flesh they will hang up in a tree to
freeze and furnish them with many a savoury meal.
     The greatest number of Raccoons, however, are killed by log-traps set with
a figure of 4 trigger, and baited with a bird or squirrel, an ear of corn, or a
fish:  either the appetite or curiosity of these animals will entice them into a
trap or entangle them in a snare.
     Another mode of destroying this species is by fire-hunting, which requires
good shooting, as the animal only shows one eye from behind the branch of a
tree, which reflecting the light of the fire-hunter's torch, shines like a ball
of phosphorus, and is generally knocked out at twenty-five or thirty yards by a
good marksman.
     The Raccoon, like the bear, hibernates for several months during winter in
the latitude of New-York, and only occasionally and in a warm day leaves its
retreat, which is found in the hollow of some large tree.  We once however
tracked in deep snow the footsteps of a pair of this species in the northern
parts of New-York, and obtained them by having the tree in which they lay
concealed cut down.  They had made a circle in company of about a mile, and then
returned to their winter domicil.
     The specimen from which the large figure on our plate was taken was a
remarkably fine male, and was sent to us alive by our friend, the late Dr. JOHN
WRIGHT of Troy, New-york.

                           GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION.

     The Raccoon has a very extensive geographical range.  Captain COOK Saw
skins at Nootka Sound which were supposed to be those of the Raccoon.  DIXON and
PARLTOCK obtained Raccoon skins from the natives of Cook's River in latitude 60
degrees.  It is supposed by RICHARDSON that this animal extends farther north on
the shores of the Pacific, than it does on the eastern side of the Rocky
Mountains.  He farther states, that the Hudson's Bay Company procured about one
hundred skins from the southern parts of the fur districts as far north as Red
River, latitude 50 degrees.  We have not been able to trace it on the Atlantic
coast farther north than Newfoundland.  It is found in the Eastern, Northern and
Middle States, and seems to become more abundant as we proceed southwardly.  In
some of the older states its numbers have greatly diminished, in consequence of
the clearing of the forests, and the incessant wars waged against it by the
hunters.  In South  Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, it is
still found in great numbers, is regarded as a nuisance to the cord fields, and
is at particular seasons hunted at night by sportsmen and negroes.  We have been
informed by our friend DANIEL MORRISON, Esq., of Madison Springs in Georgia,
that in his frequent visits to Arkansas between the Washita and Red Rivers, the
Raccoons are very plentiful and are frequently seen travelling about in open
day, and that many corn fields are nearly destroyed by the Raccoon and the bear.
     It was seen by LEWIS and CLARK at the mouth of the Columbia river.  We
possess several specimens obtained in Texas, and were informed by a friend, that
although he had not seen it in California, he had heard of its existence in the
northern parts of that State.

                                GENERAL REMARKS.

     As might be expected, an occasional variety is found in this species.
     We possess a specimen nearly black; another yellowish white, with the
annulations in the tail faint and indistinct.  A nest of young was found in
Christ Church parish in South Carolina, two of which were of the usual colour,
the other two were white; one of them was sent to us; it was an albino, with red
eyes, and all the hairs were perfectly white with the exception of faint traces
of rings on the tail.  We have no doubt that a similar variety was described by
GRAY, under the name of Procyon nivea.
     We have accordingly added his name as a synonyme.  Our friend Dr. SAMUEL
GEORGE  MORTON of Philadelphia kept one for some time alive which was of a
yellowish cream colour, and was also an albino.