A common mammal found around the world and specifically in the United States, the raccoon is both beloved and hated. No matter your opinion on raccoons, this article endeavors to answer the question: how long do raccoons live?
We will discuss the average lifespan of raccoons, as well as what their life cycle is like. These omnivores have a lot of fascinating habits and ways of living. If you’ve always wanted to know more about raccoons, you’re in the right place. Let’s get started.
How Long Do Raccoons Live?
Raccoons live an average of 2-5 years in the wild, with captive raccoons living much longer. For example, a raccoon named Merlin lived in captivity to be at least 14 years of age! Some raccoons have even been known to reach at least 20 years of age.
Raccoons face many different threats and predators in the wild, most of which are human driven. They face early deaths due to cars and other human interference. They are also victims of predation from large predators such as bobcats and coyotes.
These mammals can adapt to live in a wide variety of environments, from forested areas to urban cities. They often plague campsites and other semi-rural areas, digging through trash cans and paying no mind to humans. Their deft hands allow them to open a wide variety of things, and they can run up to 15 miles per hour!
But with all of this in mind, what is the average raccoon life cycle like? Let’s take a look!
The Average Raccoon Life Cycle
From newly born to old age, here’s what life is like for the average raccoon!
Raccoons mate in the late winter and early spring. Females only give birth once per year. They have a gestation period of roughly two months, and most raccoons give birth to an average of 3-6 babies. These babies are born blind, hairless, and helpless. Their mother is necessary for their survival.
Baby raccoons, also known as kits, begin to walk after three to four weeks of life. They are the most in danger during this time, as coyotes and other predators are capable of carrying them off given their small size and relative helplessness.
As baby raccoons grow, they experience many changes. However, they remain with their mothers through the first 6-8 months of their life, if not for the full first year. This is a detrimental time for a young raccoon, as they learn valuable foraging techniques and how to best hide during times of predation.
Once raccoons are a year old, they tend to live solitary lives. Males reach sexual maturity after 2 years of age, and female raccoons need only a single year to reach this point. Young raccoons will be learning how to best forage and procure food during this time of their lives, as they are opportunistic omnivores.
Raccoons are considered fully grown adults after two years of age. Many raccoons weigh anywhere from 5 pounds to over 20 pounds, depending on their size and food availability. Speaking of food, did you know that raccoons prefer to wash their food before consuming it, just like people!?
Unfortunately, many adult raccoons are near the end of their lives based on their average lifespan while in the wild. With so many environmental issues and health concerns, an adult raccoon may not live very long past two or three years of age.
Despite this, raccoons remain a positive member of many ecosystems and habitats. If you are having issues with raccoons on your property, there are many steps that you can take to keep them safe as well as your property. Covering your trash cans is one of many things you can do to keep these mammals away without harming them!
How Does Their Lifespan Compare to Possums?
When it comes to common wildlife creatures around the world, raccoons are up there in terms of population. However, there’s another common animal to consider when thinking about semi-urban creatures: the possum. How does a possum’s lifespan compare to that of a raccoon?
Possums have a much shorter lifespan than the average raccoon. These nocturnal carnivorous marsupials live an average of 2-3 years, both in the wild and in captivity. The oldest possum in captivity only lived to be four years of age, a stark difference to the average raccoon age while in captivity.
Why might this be? Well, possums are much smaller than raccoons, averaging no more than ten pounds. This means that possums are much more likely to be eaten by predators or otherwise attacked. Raccoons are much larger and have fewer predators overall.
Possums also eat roadkill and other animals found near roadways. The presence of cars is a huge factor in the lifespan of both possums and raccoons. Getting hit by cars is one of the main causes of death for both of these animals, especially since possums often eat meals right beside busy roadways.
Possums also differ from raccoons in their ability to play dead. Raccoons often vocalize and express discomfort to humans similarly to a dog or a cat. However, when a possum is frightened by humans, they will play dead first. This can lead to some confusion, especially when humans are trying to move a possum who is playing dead.
Many possums die in unfortunate circumstances when humans move them while they are playing dead. It can be difficult to tell the difference between an actually dead possum and one who is only playing- this is definitely not a problem that raccoons share!
No matter what, these two mammals need compassion when found on our properties and homeland. They are only here to eat and move on- both raccoons and possums deserve longer lives than they usually get!