Posts Tagged ‘crab-eating raccoon’

Jess got the closest to answering this edition of “Identify the species.”

These are newborn crab-eating raccoons (Procyon cancrivorus).

What’s a crab-eating raccoon?

Well, it’s the other species of raccoon.

Yep. There are two of them.

Procyon lotor is the raccoon we North Americans know best. It is larger and shaggier. It also has a greater tendency to put on fat– an important adaptation to raccoons that live where winters can be long and harsh.  The newborns of this species look a bit like these little crab-eating raccoons, but they are darker in color.

Crab-eating raccoons are native to Panama and Costa Rica and much of northern South America, as well as Trinidad and Tobago.  They are smaller and more slightly-built animals with shorter coats.

I was not aware of a second raccoon species until a few years ago. I saw a documentary about Brazilian animals, and it very briefly showed a raccoon.

In the days before Google was available, I played around on the old search engines until I got an answer.


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strange critter

As I said before, I have not lost my mind.

I also said I was messing with you.

Mea culpa. I was.

It is a raccoon.

However, it’s not the raccoon we in most of North America know. It is a different species.

You mean there are other species of raccoon?

Yes. I’m sure most of you know that there are several species in the Procyonidae family– the coati, the kinkajou, and the ring-tail to name a few.

However, there are actually two other extant species of raccoon in the genus Procyon. One of these is the pygmy or Cozumel Island raccoon (Procyon pygmaeus), which is a unique dwarf species of raccoon. It is currently quite endangered, and it is on the verge of becoming extinct.  Other smaller raccoons native to islands have been thought of as distinct species, but the current move among taxonomists is to consider those animals to be subspecies of the common raccoon (Procyon lotor).

The other species of raccoon, and the one that was in my question yesterday is the crab-eating raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus). This animal is a little bit smaller than the common raccoon, and its range includes Panama and the northern part of South America.  In Panama, it shares its range with the common raccoon, and because of Bergmann’s rule, the subspecies of the common raccoon in Panama may look a bit like a crab-eating raccoon.

The local subspecies of the common raccoon where I live is quite shaggy, even in the summer, and the crab-eating raccoon is rather smooth-haired. It is designed for a tropical climate.

crabeater II

It is often seen eating crabs and other crustaceans near the edges of rivers, which is how it got its name, but like its northern cousin, it is an omnivore. Both of these animals will eat crabs if they can get them.

I’ve always thought that these animals had a poor names. Why don’t we call the common raccoon the northern raccoon and the crab-eating raccoon the southern raccoon? It would be far more accurate, and it would make a little bit more sense.

It should be noted here that common raccoonswere not a northern species.  Even where I live, they were not very common until about ten years ago. (Today, we have a raccoon plague). Their range had always been in the southern parts of North America, but they soon discovered that European man had lots of things that were good for it. We had tons of garbage and farm fields full of food. We also had steeples and chimneys that they could den in. We have definitely been a boon for this species.

We have been so good to the raccoon that its range has expanded well into Canada, including areas where the indigenous people had no word for the species. The Nazis also introduced them to Germany, which was one of their many bad ideas,  and not to be outdone, the Soviets introduced them to Caucasus. This species is currently the most widespread of the Procyonids, as well as the most northerly distributed. It is also the only one you are going to find in Germany or Georgia (both of them).

But from Panama on south, there is another species of raccoon, a gracile and short-haired species that one could easily mistake for our northern species. The reason why I chose to do a trivia post on this species is that I thought someone would bite on it and call it a raccoon.To which I was going to say:

It is a raccoon, but it’s not the same one we have here.

But my readers are onto me and my black arts.

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