North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission


Scientific Name: Procyon lotor
Classification: Game Species and Furbearer 
Abundance: Common throughout state

Species Profile (PDF)


Additional Raccoon Information

The mischievous little creature wearing the familiar black mask is the raccoon. These handsome mammals are highly intelligent and very playful. In folk stories, the raccoon often outwits humans or other animals. Its great adaptability has allowed it to flourish throughout our history and in almost all environments. So adaptable is it that the raccoon is among the most numerous of wild animals found in cities and other urban areas. There are few people who haven’t surprised a raccoon on a nocturnal raid of their garbage cans. Six raccoon species (possibly seven) are found in North, Central and South America. Our raccoon (Procyon lotor), which could be called the common raccoon is the only one found in North America, but it is also native to Central America and has been introduced in parts of Europe and Asia. North American raccoon relatives are the coati and the ringtail, both of which have banded tails.

There are nine species of resident small game in North Carolina including, three species of rabbits (Eastern cottontail, Appalachian cottontail, and marsh rabbit), three squirrels (fox, red and gray squirrels) and three birds (quail, grouse and pheasants). Many differences exist between the species including their distributions, abundances, and future conservation challenges. Information about other types of small game species, including woodcock, doves, groundhogs, etc., can be found in other parts of this website.

Habitat changes over the past 40-50 years have presented the greatest challenge to management, and for the most part, have been detrimental to small game. Conservation challenges include urban growth, habitat fragmentation, exotic plants and insects, incompatible farming and forestry practices, and unchecked forest succession. Currently, undisturbed maturing forest conditions are beneficial for most squirrel species. However, habitats are deteriorating for bobwhite quail and grouse which are dependent upon early successional conditions. Remnant populations of pheasants, a non-native gamebird, also continue to decline on the Outer Banks where larger populations once existed.

In situations where habitat is created for these species, small game populations are often quick to respond due to their high reproductive rates and ability to colonize new areas. To address recent declines of these species dependent on early successional habitat, the Wildlife Resource commission has developed programs such as the CURE (Cooperative Upland Habitat Restoration and Enhancement) program.

Many people hunt small game species in North Carolina. Each year approximately 150,000 sportsmen/ sportswomen take more than 1.0 million trips afield in pursuit of resident small game species. Based on a survey of hunters during a recent hunting season, it was estimated that hunters harvested approximately 8,750 grouse, 230,000 quail, 382,500 rabbits, and 482,000 squirrels in North Carolina.

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