Raccoons

 

Characteristics

Size: Adults can grow to be quite large, ranging from 15-40 pounds and up to 3 feet in length. Males tend to be larger than females.

Color: These mammals are known for their black face masks. Their fur is 1-2 inches thick and is usually silver or a dirty-gray tipped with black. On their tails, the fur is ringed. There are coloration exceptions that result in brown, black, yellowish or orange animals as well

Behavior: Raccoons have strong back legs, which are longer than their front legs. Their front paws have the appearance of hands due to five dexterous toes that they use to forage. Depending on the circumstance, the noise they make is anything from a purr or hiss to grunting, snarling, growling and screaming.

Females can reproduce as early as 1 year old, but males typically wait until they are 2 years old to mate. A male will mate with several females each season, as they are not monogamous. Females gestate for approximately 63 days, before giving birth to four to six kits. They are raised in a den, and are about 2 months old when they begin hunting with their mother at night. Juveniles may remain with their mother until they are 1 year old. Females will cycle between dens every few days once the kits are old enough to be moved. While they do not hibernate, during extremely cold or severe weather, it is possible for several of them to share a den site.

These animals can live for up to 16 years in ideal circumstances, however, the average lifespan of a raccoon is two to four years. Causes of death often include starvation of younger animals; being caught by trappers; harvested by hunters or hit by vehicles. There are also several predators that impact raccoon populations. These include larger animals such as coyotes, bobcats and cougars, and birds of prey including eagles and some types of owls.

In rural areas, a raccoon may choose from a smorgasbord of options for food. They are omnivores and have been known to consume berries, nuts, fruits, bugs, mice, eggs, fish, shellfish and even snakes. They will also eat cultivated crops, such as corn.

Urban-dwelling raccoons have even more options as people discard more than enough food to keep these critters happy. They are known to go through dumpsters and garbage cans foraging for scraps, and will also plunder bird feeders, dig through gardens and eat dog and cat food that is left unattended.

Raccoons develop a territory of their own, sometimes called a home range. Depending on the size of the animal, its age and its location, this area can be anywhere from one square mile to 18 square miles. In urban areas, they tend to need smaller areas to forage.

In the wild, these animals can be found near water. They gravitate toward lakes, marshes, rivers or streams and also look for trees, brush and other cover in which to live. Dens can be found in the abandoned burrows of other animals, hollowed-out trees or logs, or in crevasses in rock formations.

In populated areas you may find raccoons in any number of places. Typical urban hiding spots for them include chimneys, attics, woodpiles and underneath homes.

There are a few different ways to control a wild animal population. Look for the following signs to identify a possible raccoon population in or around your home:

  • Tracks or smudge marks on walls, decks, in soft ground or near drainage pipes and gutters.

  • Small piles of droppings on the ground near trees or on the roof. (Raccoon feces can contain parasites that are dangerous for people, so you should never handle it without taking precautions not to touch or ingest it.)

If you spot either of these signs, call a pest management professional and learn more about the control options available to you.