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Raccoons are stocky-bodied, usually solitary, and nocturnal mammals of the genus Procyon in the family Procyonidae (no, I cant pronounce that either). They are generally regarded as consisting of seven species: the North American raccoon, P. lotor; the South American crab-eating raccoon, P. cancrivorus; and five other species, each confined to one or more small islands off Florida and Mexico and in the West Indies. The North American species, which is divided into about 25 geographic varieties, or subspecies, is from 23 to 30 cm (9 to 12 in) high at the shoulders and from 40 to 60 cm long, plus a 24- to 26.5-cm tail. Its weight is usually between 5.5 and 7.25 kg (12 and 16 lb), but very fat specimens may exceed 18 kg (40 lb). The long, coarse fur of the North American raccoon is commonly yellowish gray to grayish brown, with markings of four to ten (usually five or six) dark rings on the tail and a black mask across the face and around the eyes.
Raccoons prefer swampy areas or woods near water and are absent from very high elevations, very arid regions, and purely coniferous forests. Found throughout the United States except for large parts of some of the western states, they are omnivorous. Raccoons always wash their food before they eat it, but there is many different theories as to why they do this. In the north, if the temperature drops consistently below -4 deg C (25 deg F), or if the snows are heavy, the raccoon becomes dormant, spending weeks in a deep sleep but not in true hibernation.
The breeding season for the North American raccoon is from February to early March in the north but begins as early as December in the south. Gestation averages 63 days, and a litter commonly contains one to seven young. Although raccoons may live 14 years or more in captivity, they seldom survive beyond seven years in the wild.