Raccoons are highly intelligent and curious creatures, but they can also be a nuisance to any homeowner. These nocturnal mammals can destroy gardens, make a mess by tipping over garbage cans, and can cause structural damage in search of food. On this page, you will learn general raccoon facts and how to identify raccoon damage.
General Raccoon Facts
Scientific Name: Procyon lotor
Average Size: 12" tall; 24 - 38" long; 14-23 lbs.
Average Lifespan in the Wild: 2-3 years
Identifying Features: Gray fur with a black mask and 4 - 7 black rings around its tail; pointy snout with a black nose; dexterous front paws.
Raccoons are natively found throughout most of North America. Recently, raccoons have emerged in parts of Europe and Japan.
Traditionally, raccoons prefer heavily wooded areas with access to trees, water and abundant vegetation. There, they make their dens in the hollow parts of trees and abandoned burrows, traveling up to 18 miles to forage for food.
Raccoons are extremely adaptable. They are often found in suburban and urban areas, making their homes in man-made structures like attics, sewers, barns and sheds. In urban areas, raccoons tend to stay closer to their dens with a range of only about 1 mile, depending on the raccoon's age and sex.
Raccoons are omnivores with an opportunistic diet, eating almost anything they can get their paws on. In urban areas, where wildlife and fresh vegetation are limited, raccoons will be more likely to eat human food and invade trash cans. The majority of their diet consists of sweet foods like fruits and invertebrates.
Some favorite foods include:
Activity: Nocturnal in nature, raccoons are mostly active at nighttime. They are most active in spring, summer and fall, and will sleep in their dens for most of the winter.
Reproduction: Reproduction begins in late winter. Females, or sows, usually give birth to 1 - 6 baby kits in April or May. Mothers are very protective of their young until they separate after about a year.
Social Interaction: Raccoons are independent after 12 - 14 months of age. Adults live in loose knit communities of 4 - 5 raccoons for better protection against predators.
Communication: Raccoons communicate with each other using over 200 different sounds and 12 - 15 different calls.
Skills: Raccoons possess amazing dexterity that allows them to open doors, jars, bottles and latches. They are also great climbers, which allows them to better access food and shelter.
Identify Raccoon Damage
Raccoons can be extremely destructive due to their curiosity, intelligence, dexterity and climbing skills.
Here are some signs to help identify a raccoon problem:
- Tipped trash cans
- Raided bird feeders
- Pilfered gardens
- Damaged crops (ex. chewed sweet corn, hollowed out watermelons)
- Uncapped chimneys
- Torn shingles
- Raccoon tracks: five long toes and fingers resembling human hands
Raccoons can carry several bacterial diseases and parasites that can be transmitted to humans and pets through a bite or the ingestion of raccoon waste.
Some diseases that can affect humans and pets include:
- Roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis)
Although raccoons are notorious for carrying rabies, there has only been one recorded human death from raccoon rabies in the United States. Some signs that a raccoon may have rabies include aggressiveness, unusual vocalization, and excessive drool or foam from the mouth. If you think you may have identified a rabid raccoon, call your local animal control authority immediately.
A raccoon will rinse its food in water prior to eating it. When there is no water closeby, a raccoon will still rub its food to remove debris.
Some hypothesize that the purpose of a raccoon's black mask is to reduce glare, helping it see better in the dark.
A group of raccoons is called a nursery.
Although raccoons only live 2-3 years in the wild, a raccoon can live up to 20 years in captivity.