Are Raccoons Related to Bears? Finding DNA Connection

are raccoons related to bears

Are raccoons related to bears? Contrary to their appearances, raccoons and bears are not directly related; although they share some physical traits and behaviors, they belong to different taxonomic families within the order Carnivora, with a common ancestor dating back around 40 million years ago.

In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating world of raccoons and bears to uncover the scientific evidence behind their relationship, if any.

Raccoons and bears are not in the same family tree, even though they’re both in the Carnivora group. Raccoons have their own family called Procyonidae, and bears have theirs called Ursidae. 

Even though they might look similar in some ways, their DNA shows they aren’t closely related. Scientists think they split from a common ancestor about 40 million years ago, taking different paths in their evolution.

Similarities between Raccoons and Bears

  • Physical Traits: Raccoons and bears share certain physical characteristics, such as stout bodies, sharp claws, and a plantigrade stance (walking with the entire sole of the foot on the ground).
  • Facial Resemblance: Both species exhibit a similar facial structure, including a snout and rounded ears, contributing to their visual resemblance.
  • Behavioral Traits: Raccoons and bears demonstrate similarities in behavior, showcasing a keen sense of curiosity, dexterity in using their front paws, and an opportunistic feeding approach.
  • Dietary Habits: Both animals are omnivores, meaning they have a diverse diet that includes both plant and animal matter. They adapt their diets based on the availability of resources in their habitats.
  • Adaptability: Raccoons and bears are known for their adaptability to various environments, showing a capacity to thrive in different ecosystems.

While these similarities exist, it’s crucial to remember that they belong to separate taxonomic families and have distinct evolutionary histories.

Differences between Raccoon and Bears

  • Taxonomic Classification: Raccoons and bears belong to different taxonomic families within the order Carnivora. Raccoons are part of the Procyonidae family, while bears fall under Ursidae.
  • Size and Build: Bears are generally much larger than raccoons. Bears have a more robust and massive build, while raccoons are smaller and more agile.
  • Habitat Preferences: Raccoons are highly adaptable and can thrive in various environments, including urban areas. Bears, on the other hand, often prefer wild, forested habitats and are less commonly found in urban settings.
  • Social Structure: Bears are typically solitary animals, while raccoons are known for their more social behavior, often forming small groups or communities, especially during certain times of the year.
  • Hibernation: Bears commonly undergo a period of hibernation during the winter months, where they enter a state of reduced metabolic activity. Raccoons do not hibernate but may experience a period of decreased activity during severe winter weather.
  • Claw Shape: The shape of their claws differs; bears have longer, more curved claws adapted for digging and catching prey, while raccoons have shorter, straighter claws suited for climbing and manipulating objects.
  • Dietary Preferences: While both species are omnivores, there are variations in their diets. Bears are more likely to rely on large quantities of plant matter, including fruits and vegetation, while raccoons may have a more varied diet that includes insects, small animals, and human food.

In terms of evolutionary relationships, bears and raccoons are more closely related to each other than either is to humans. Bears and raccoons belong to the order Carnivora, while humans belong to the order Primates. The common ancestor of bears and raccoons split from the common ancestor of humans a much longer time ago in evolutionary history.

To put it simply, bears and raccoons share a more recent common ancestor with each other than either does with humans.

Animals that resembles a raccoon more than a bear

These animals exhibit visual resemblances to raccoons, emphasizing the diversity within the animal kingdom.

  • Red Panda: With its similar size and raccoon-like facial markings, the red panda shares visual traits with raccoons.
  • Coati: Coatis, members of the raccoon family (Procyonidae), display a long snout and ringed tail, resembling raccoons more than bears.
  • Kinkajou: This tropical mammal exhibits a raccoon-like appearance, featuring a mask-like face and prehensile tail.
  • Ringtail: Native to North America, ringtails share a ringed tail and facial markings with raccoons, though they belong to a different family.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Relationship Between Raccoons and Bears

Q1: Are raccoons bears, or do they belong to the same family?

A: No, raccoons and bears are not the same, nor do they belong to the same family. Raccoons belong to the Procyonidae family, while bears fall under the Ursidae family within the order Carnivora.

Q2: Is a panda a bear or a raccoon?

A: Pandas are classified as bears. Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) belong to the Ursidae family, sharing a closer genetic relation with bears rather than raccoons.

Q3: Can raccoons and bears engage in mating and produce offspring through interbreeding?

No, raccoons and bears cannot mate and interbreed. While they share some physical traits and behaviors, they belong to different taxonomic families within the order Carnivora. Interbreeding is generally only possible between closely related species that belong to the same genus or family, which is not the case for raccoons and bears.

Q4: How do raccoon and bear poop differ, and what can it tell us about them?

A: Raccoon and bear poop differ in size, shape, and composition. Raccoon droppings are typically smaller, cylindrical, and may contain bits of undigested food like berries. Bear feaces, on the other hand, is larger, often tubular, and can include remnants of a more varied diet, such as plant matter, insects, and sometimes even fur. Studying their scat provides valuable insights into their diets, health, and territory, aiding researchers in understanding their behaviors and ecological roles.

Q5: Can raccoons and bears carry rabies, and what precautions should be taken?

A: Yes, both raccoons and bears can carry rabies. It’s crucial to avoid contact with wild animals, vaccinate pets, and seek medical attention promptly if there’s a possibility of exposure to prevent rabies transmission.


While raccoons and bears may share some physical traits, their evolutionary paths diverged around 40 million years ago, leading to their placement in distinct taxonomic families within the order Carnivora. Despite appearances, raccoons and bears are not closely related. The similarities observed are a result of convergent evolution, where different species independently develop comparable traits to adapt to similar environments.

About Tanya Garg 82 Articles
I'm Tanya, the dedicated raccoon enthusiast behind My mission is to share my knowledge about raccoons through insightful blogs, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for these intelligent creatures. Join me on a journey to learn more about raccoons, their behavior, and the importance of ensuring their safe relocation when necessary. Let's together create a world where raccoons and humans coexist harmoniously and safely.