Facts about Raccoons: What You Need to Know

Raccoons, Procyon loctor, are found across the United States in both urban and wild settings. These mammals, known for their black face mask and ringed tails, are often fed by campers and homeowners and can appear friendly. But here are eight raccoon facts, for kids and adults alike, that you may not know.

Raccoon is derived from a Native American word.

The word “raccoon” is believed to come from the Algonquin Indian word arakun, which means “he who scratches with his hands.”

Raccoons don’t actually have hands.

It’s a common myth that raccoons have hands. What they do have are front paws with five, dexterous toes, giving them the appearance of tiny hands. Plus, their back legs are longer than their front ones, which gives them a slouching walk when on all fours.

You can’t own a raccoon as a pet.

It’s a myth that you can own raccoons as pets. In most states it is illegal to own them, and special licenses are required in the few states that do allow it. Raccoons can be dangerous, as they can carry canine distemper, parvoviruses and rabies. They are also sometimes infested with ticks, lice and fleas.

Raccoons are classified as furbearers.

Common furbearing animals include foxes, coyotes, skunks, opossums, minks, beavers, muskrats and raccoons. These animals are protected by law in most states and can only be hunted or trapped during specific times of the year. A special license or permit may be required to hunt or trap them. Certain states do have exceptions for cases where raccoons are causing significant damage, but non-lethal methods should always be tried first and you should check your state’s laws before taking any drastic actions.

Raccoons share the bathroom.

It’s a raccoon fact that these animals pick communal sites, called latrines, in which to defecate. Multiple raccoons will visit that one site to do their business, much like cats and litter boxes. Common sites for raccoon latrines include the ground around trees, horizontal surfaces that are raised, attics, garages, decks, patios and sometimes on the roof of a home or shed. Raccoons also tend to defecate before they climb. You should never handle raccoon feces without wearing the proper safety equipment, as it can have the eggs of a species of roundworm that is detrimental to human health.

They have a home turf advantage.

A raccoon will move between several dens, foraging for food inside a home range or area. In urban settings, a raccoon’s range could be as small as one mile in diameter, but in the wild it could be as large as 18 miles. While each raccoon will have its own space, young raccoons will stay with their mother for up to one year after birth, and the range of adult male and female raccoons often overlaps.

They aren’t shy about causing damage.

When a raccoon wants something, it will go over, under or through an obstacle to obtain it. In rural settings they are known to cause damage to corn and other grain crops, gardens and chicken coops in their pursuit of food. Females can cause damage to rooftops when they dig for an entry point to make a den, and raccoons denning in your chimney or attic can also pose a serious problem.

Cute doesn’t always mean friendly.

Unfortunately, many people think it’s acceptable to feed raccoons. Facts, however, do not support this as a pastime. While these animals will approach to take food from you, this encourages them to return to your home for more. This can be dangerous for your pets, and could mean your yard also becomes the latrine. Additionally, raccoons, while cute, can turn violent when cornered or threatened, and their front paws can cause serious damage to you or your property.

Now that you know some facts about raccoons, do your part to keep them away from your home. If you are seeing raccoons or signs of their activity, consider calling in an expert to help you ensure that your home is safe.