Published on January 31, 2022
Last Updated on October 11, 2023
There are more than thirty different types of raccoons in the world and they are native to the Americas, from as far north as Alaska to as far south as Argentina. Of these, only the Pygmy Raccoon (also known as the Cozumel Raccoon) is critically endangered.
The raccoon that most people are familiar with is the Common Raccoon (Procyon lotor), which is native to North America. It is not endangered and, in fact, it thrives both in the wild and in urban environments.
This article discusses whether raccoons are endangered and the nature of their conservation both in North America and around the world.
Are Raccoons Going Extinct?
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According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the Pygmy Raccoon (Procyon pygmaeus) is critically endangered. This means that this species of raccoon is going extinct. Its only habitat is the Mexican island of Cozumel close to Playa del Carmen, and it is under threat because of habitation loss and introduced species.
The good news is that all other types of raccoons, including the Common Raccoon, are not going extinct and there are plenty of them across North America and around the world.
How Many Raccoons Are There In The World?
Since raccoons are so widespread, it is difficult to know how many there are in the world. It is estimated that there are between 5,000,000 and 10,000,000 in North America alone (including Canada and Mexico) and perhaps as many as 20,000,000 across the globe.
Common Raccoons are mostly found in their native North America, but thanks to their intelligence and adaptability, you can find them throughout Germany, Japan, and the Former Soviet Union, where they have been deliberately introduced.
On the Mexican island of Cozumel, however, it is estimated that there may be as few as 192 adult Pygmy Raccoons and between just 232 and 955 young individuals.
Is the Raccoon A Protected Species?
According to the National Wildlife Control Training Program in the United States, the Common Raccoon is protected in most American states. It is what is known as a furbearer, which is an animal that has traditionally been hunted or trapped for its fur.
This level of protection means that there are dedicated seasons when you can hunt or trap them, but you need a license or permit in order to do this.
You’ll need to contact the authorities in each state to find out their exact regulations for hunting raccoons.
Are Raccoons Doing Worse In Some States?
Raccoons are native to North America and they can be found in Canada, Mexico, the northern-most parts of South America, and most of the United States including Hawaii, where they are an invasive species.
Raccoons have the intelligence and adaptability to live almost anywhere, from the cool mountain slopes to the urban environment of large cities. For this reason, it is not a question of ‘are raccoons doing worse in some states’? The issue is whether some states control their populations of raccoons to stop the numbers from getting too large.
For example, while most states have legislation protecting raccoons, places like Nevada allow you to hunt and trap raccoons all year round and without a license.
What Would Happen If Raccoons Went Extinct?
In the current state of conservation in the United States, it is highly unlikely that Common Raccoons will go extinct. They have shown that they can easily adapt to most environments, including those modified by humans.
However, if they were to go extinct, it would mean that many species that prey on them such as foxes and coyotes would have to find another food source. It is difficult to predict exactly what might happen, but they could go on to hunt other endangered or protected species.
It also means that populations of their traditional prey – crustaceans and frogs – may explode and throw the ecological system out of balance.
Currently, the Pygmy Raccoon is the only type that is likely to go extinct. If this happened, we will have lost a unique and beautiful species forever.
Might Raccoons Be Threatened In The Future
Thanks to their robust adaptability, and talent for living in all sorts of environments, it is highly unlikely that the Common Raccoon will be threatened in the future. In fact, in most areas of the United States, populations of the Common Raccoon are increasing.
The raccoon has only a few natural predators like cougars, bobcats, and coyotes, so there’s not much chance of it being predated to extinction. However, it is subject to a range of diseases like roundworm, trichinosis, canine distemper, and rabies.
Common Raccoons are one of the few native species that thrive when living close to humans. They happily live off the crops we grow and the garbage we leave behind so it is very likely that they will continue to be our animal neighbors for many years to come.