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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Species Details Lewis and Clark as Naturalists
Mammal    Species Name:
Procyon lotor
Original name, or synonym, Ursus lotor Linnaeus, 1758

Common Name:


Chariton River, Missouri   June 13, 1804

Familiar species, peculiar family

Coincidence (or is it?) has given to the raccoon both a masked face and the manners of a bandit.  Known for escaping trouble as quickly as it can get into a jam, this nimble fingered, cunning, tree climbing, and semi-aquatic mammal is now as much a part of the urban landscape as it was an inhabitant of the forests, marshes, and coastlines during the time of Lewis and Clark. Although raccoons are known from southern Canada in the north to Panama in the south, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts, other species of the raccoon family, like the prehensile tailed kinkajou, have never succeeded outside tropical and semi-tropical habitats.  Raccoons in some ways resemble both bears and pandas, both of which they are related to, yet they also purr like a cat, and coo-coo like a pidgeon.  They embody a bundle of energy, playfulness, and a fierceness that should not be tested.

Lewis and Clark were quite familiar with raccoons living in the East, so they did not record much about them in the West.  However they did add to our knowledge of the animal's range west of the Mississippi River.

For more information about this North American mammal, click here.

Journal Entries:

Capt. Clark, June 13, 1804--Capt Lewis and myself walked to the hill, from the top of which we had a butifull prospect of ...  more>>

References Linné, Carl von, Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturae, Secundum Classes, Ordines, Genera, Species, Cum Characteribus, Differentiis, Synonymis, Locis, ed. 10, 2 vols, Holmiae: impensis direct. Laurentii Salvii, 1758

see following caption

See following caption

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