U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Raccoons are easily identified by a black mask over their face and a striped tail with six black rings. Along with the coyote and the opossum, raccoon populations have spiked as a result of human population growth. Raccoons, while currently well known as legendary raiders of urban environments, are also historically forest dwelling creatures. In New River Gorge National River raccoons are equal opportunity scavengers. There are times when they eat primarily seeds, plants, and fruits. They are also opportunistic scavengers. They eat dead meat, as well as raid bird nests and snake nests. They are capable of attacking fish, frogs, insects, and rodents and eating them as well.
Raccoons are excellent climbers. They don't build their own dens, but find hollowed out trees and other empty places where they feel safe. In urban environments they move into sewers, attics, and basements. Raccoons do not hibernate in the winter. During the spring, summer, and fall raccoons eat as much as possible. During the winter, they store their body fat and are known to sleep for days; but also they take every opportunity of warmer temperatures to go scavenge for more food.
During the 19th century, raccoon fur was valuable. Raccoons were hunted for their rich fur and their historic populations decreased. However, during the 20th century and into the 21st century they have not been hunted as much, and as a result their populations remain healthy and vibrant. Their range extends across the United States and Canada, with the exception of several places that are too arid or too cold for their survival.