The raccoon is a common nocturnal mammal, well known for its dexterous paws and black facial markings that look like a mask. These masked bandits sometimes get a bad rap for their tendency to rifle through trash in search of food, but really they deserve some credit for learning to survive and thrive in our human-dominated world. So how exactly do they survive and thrive? When is the raccoon mating season? Read on to find out when raccoons breed.
When is Raccoon Mating Season?
Mating season for the common raccoon is stimulated by increasing daylight and occurs between the months of January and June, with the peak times varying by region.
Female raccoons are receptive to mating during a short, 3-4 day period when conception is possible. Male raccoons roam their ranges in search of receptive females during mating season. If courting is successful and a pair is established, the ritual of foreplay and copulation will occur over the course of an hour or more, and may be repeated for several nights.
Do Raccoons Mate for Life?
Raccoons do not form pair bonds for life, and instead engage in a promiscuous mating strategy. It is sometimes believed that male raccoons are polygamous, while female raccoons are monogamous. However, this is not the case, as both males and females are found to produce offspring with more than one mate. During a breeding season a pair will associate briefly, but then each may move on to copulate with other mates. Raccoons are solitary animals and the females with their young, or sometimes sibling groups, are the only social groups that form.
Mating Variation by Species
The common raccoon (Procyon lotor), is common all over North America and can be found from Southern Canada to Panama. This species is divided into 20 different subspecies including Florida, Texas, Baja California, and Snake River Valley variants. There are two other species that fall within the genus, the Southern, or crab-eating raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus), and the Cozumel, or pygmy raccoon (Procyon pygmaeus). The Cozumel raccoon is a critically endangered island species endemic to Cozumel Island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
The common raccoon mates once per year between the months of January and June. In Florida, this usually occurs in March and April, while in California it takes place in January or early February. While mating is triggered by increasing daylight hours, its not entirely solar dependent. While typically mating will occur later in Southern regions, the mating season in Manitoba Canada peaks later than average, in March, and persists until June. The common raccoon is promiscuous, with more than one partner per breeding season. A 2 month gestation period is the average before a liter is born. Their mother will be the sole provider. She’ll wean them between 2-3 months and teach them all they need to know before sending them off on their own.
Southern, or crab-eating raccoons typically mate once per year. They engage in polygynous mating. One male typically mates with more than one female during the breeding season, but female raccoons may only take one mate per season. Although if a female loses all her young early, she may mate again. This species breeds between the months of July and September. They have a gestation period of 60-73 days. The females will give birth to 2-7 kits, although 3 is the average. They are dependent on their mother at birth and she is their sole provider. They’re weaved between 7 weeks old and 4 months of age and will be entirely independent at about 8 months.
Cozumel raccoons are promiscuous, with males and females having multiple partners. They breed during the months of September and November. They have a gestation period after a successful copulation that lasts 63-65 days. After which, they give birth to 2-5 cubs. As with other raccoon species, these cubs will be cared for by the mother raccoon alone. They’re weaned at about 16 weeks and become independent of their mothers at about 10 months.
Raccoon Mating Behaviors
While both males and females are likely to engage with more than one partner during a breeding season, males will typically have more partners. One study found that males had up to 6 different mates during a season, while females had up to 4. Wildlife rescue centers often experience a surge in injured raccoons during mating season. Males get in brutal fights with one another in competition and the more dominant males show higher success in mating. However, since the dominant males cannot mate with every female, the weaker males also get a chance to mate.
Raccoon Birthing Behaviors
The gestation period for raccoons is about 2 months, after which the mother raccoon will give birth to a litter of 3-7 kits. She will find a small, enclosed den for giving birth and raising her young. Hollow trees, longs, and abandoned dens of other animals are all common choices, but she may also make use of the crawlspace under decks, sheds or attics to keep her babies warm and protected. The father will play no role in rearing the young, so she has the full responsibility of making sure the helpless newborns make it to maturity.
Raccoon mothers have a strong maternal instinct and are fiercely protective. If you run into the problem of having a raccoon den in your basement or attic and want to remove them, be sure that you don’t evict the mother without her babies. She’ll do whatever she needs to do to get back to them, and raccoons are crafty creatures.
Kits, or newborn raccoons, are born blind and deaf and are entirely dependent on their mothers. After a few weeks of being nursed and cared for, they’ll open their eyes. At an average of about 20 weeks, they will begin to forage with their mother and learn the basics they’ll need to survive in the world. They’ll usually spend time foraging and playing with their mother and siblings until the following spring, when they’ll be ready to make it on their own.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © L-N/Shutterstock.com
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