Raccoon Adaptations: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

You might know of raccoons as a neighborhood nuisance, but are you aware of the amazing adaptations that they have developed in order to thrive in their environments? Learn about some of these adaptations in this lesson.

Any Food, Any Place

When you walk past a dumpster, do you think 'Mmm, mmm, dinner time!' Probably not. But a raccoon looks at that pile of garbage and gets ready to chow down. You see, a raccoon will eat just about anything, from leftovers in your garbage to insects, fruit, plants, mice, frogs and fish. The possibilities are endless!

Its broad diet is one of the raccoon's adaptations, allowing the raccoon to live in a variety of environments. While some animals become extinct when their natural habitats are destroyed to build cities and neighborhoods, raccoons are able to adapt. You might even find a raccoon making itself comfortable living in someone's basement or attic!

A raccoon enjoying a meal
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The raccoon's ability to eat basically anything isn't the only adaptation concerning food. Did you know that the raccoon's scientific name, Procyon lotor, means 'washer dog'? This name comes from a unique behavioral adaptation - the raccoon will douse its food, which means it will dunks its food in water.

It may look like the raccoon is cleaning the food before chowing down. However, in reality, the raccoon does not douse its food to clean it. Scientists are still unsure what function dousing the food actually serves.

Hands

Think about how useful your hands are. Seriously, you can do so much with your hands. You can grab a pencil, throw a ball and paint a picture. There are many animals that can't do those things. Raccoons, however, have paws with five-fingers that are a lot like yours.

Their paws are dexterous, meaning that they have great physical ability and can handle small things well. In other words, raccoons' dexterous paws can do things like untie your shoe or steal a quarter from your wallet. Their dexterous paws come in handy when lifting the lids off of those trash cans!

Bodies

Did you know that raccoons can fall 40 feet and walk it off? Their bodies are so solid that they are protected against such falls. This is helpful in case they fall from trees, which they are excellent at climbing. Their hind feet are able to turn a full 180 degrees in order to climb down from the trees head first. Pretty awesome! Another amazing thing about their little legs is that, despite their short height, they are able to run as fast as 15 miles per hour.

Raccoons are excellent climbers.
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