Raccoons are in the taxonomic family Procyonidae, which includes olingos, coatis, kinkajous, cacomistles and ringtails. All 18 species of procyonids are New World animals native to the Western Hemisphere in areas ranging from Canada to Argentina. While the raccoon is common in North America, its relatives are heavily concentrated in Central America. Procyonids make their homes in a variety of habitats, including forests, wetlands, deserts and rainforests.
Animals in the raccoon family are typically small tree climbers, measuring roughly 12 to 28 inches in length. Their faces are often small and wide with large eyes and short ears. A raccoon's distinct facial markings are found in relative species, but this characteristic isn't universal. Procyonids have varying shades of brown fur and striped bands around their flexible tails. Some species have prehensile tails useful for balancing or grasping.
Procyonids have 40 sharp teeth for eating meat and vertebrates, but their omnivorous diets also include grains and fruits. Scientists believe these furry mammals are descended from an evolutionary branch of ursids, making them close relatives of the bear family. Many procyonids are nocturnal species and live in large social groups. Kinkajous are the only species known for territorial behavior, but other resourceful procyonids create dens in trees to evade predators.