When you picture a raccoon, you probably think of the black stripe of fur running across this animal’s face. Some people say this black fur makes a raccoon look like it’s wearing a mask or a disguise. The description fits a raccoon because this clever animal tries to stay hidden from sight whenever possible. However, besides its notable facial fur, do you know much about raccoons? If not, you likely have a lot of questions like where they live and when and where they sleep. Keep reading to learn more about where raccoons lives and other information about this unique animal.
What is a Raccoon?
A raccoon is a small mammal measuring from two to three feet long including its tail. These animals are considered medium-sized and can weigh from 10 to 20 pounds. They have thick fur that’s a mix between gray and brown. A raccoon has a pointed snout, ears that stand up, and four tiny feet featuring five toes with sharp claws. Its tail is just as notable as its face. A raccoon’s tail is bushy with rings of black and gray or brown. The tail rings have earned it the nickname ringtail.
Where Do Raccoons Live?
Raccoons live in North America and the northern portion of South America. They thrive in a temperate climate. In a natural environment, they make their homes in hollow trees, piles of wood or brush, and even in unoccupied burrows built by foxes.
In addition, raccoons can build a nest in an attic inside a home. Oftentimes, they tear insulation and move it around to create a nesting area in a corner or the rafters. A raccoon that seeks shelter in an attic is likely to have babies there because it’s a warm, safe place. In addition, these mammals have been known to seek shelter in garden sheds, garages, and barns. Sometimes raccoons even build nests in unused chimneys.
Male raccoons are solitary, so they live in a hollow tree or burrow by themselves. However, female raccoons are social. They may live in a den or burrow with several other female raccoons and their young.
When Are Raccoons Active?
If you never stay up late, you’re not likely to have seen a raccoon. These mammals are nocturnal. So, they are out searching for food after nightfall. During the day, they sleep in hollow trees, burrows, piles of brush, or tucked away in a home’s attic.
In rare instances, you may see a raccoon wandering around during the daytime. Some people assume that a raccoon is ill if it’s out during the day. But this isn’t always true. Sometimes female raccoons go out during the day to look for extra food to feed their young babies, also called kits.
Raccoons have an excellent vision so they can see very well in the dark. They travel easily almost anywhere. Raccoons can climb trees and swim as well as move fairly quickly on the ground. This ability provides them with the opportunity to find many sources of food.
Are Raccoons Afraid of People?
The short answer is no. Raccoons can live in urban or suburban areas with lots of houses around. Many live in rural areas near ranches and farms. If a raccoon catches the scent of something delicious, it won’t hesitate to explore areas with houses and people in search of food.
This leads to a problem many homeowners deal with. That problem is raccoons dumping over their garbage cans and digging through their trash for goodies. Raccoons are very resourceful when it comes to finding food in or near a home. They can dump over garbage cans or climb inside them to root around for discarded food. Raccoons can leave paper towels, bags, old tuna cans, and other trash spread out all over a driveway or sidewalk.
Some raccoons are bolder than others. They have been known to enter garages and homes through open windows or doggy doors to search for food.
Ways to Keep Raccoons Away from Your Home
There are some things that homeowners and others can do to discourage raccoons from entering their property and creating a mess. Here are some helpful tips to keep raccoons away:
- Get trash cans with locking handles so the lid can’t be removed by a raccoon.
- Secure all windows so raccoons can’t climb in.
- Block off any places in the attic where a raccoon could get in from the outside.
- Don’t leave any food items on the patio or outside where raccoons can pick up the scent.
- Sprinkle garlic powder or cayenne pepper near your garbage cans to keep ringtails away. Raccoons do not like those powerful smells!
- Install your bird feeder on top of a thin stand or pole. Raccoons have trouble climbing very thin structures.
- Keep dog and cat food bowls indoors so they’re not available to visiting raccoons.
- Install motion-sensing lights in the backyard to scare these creatures away. They don’t want the attention!
Keep in mind that if a raccoon has found food on your property once, it is likely to return several times to see if there is more food. They are known for their persistence as well as their intelligence. If someone leaves food out or even purposely puts food outside, it’s going to attract dozens of raccoons. So, it’s best to take precautions right away to discourage them.
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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Do raccoons hibernate over the winter?
No, they don’t hibernate over the winter. However, they eat an extra amount of food during the autumn so they can sleep through the coldest days of winter. They may sleep a month at a time, but don’t go into traditional hibernation like a bear.
If the weather gets extremely cold, male and female raccoons huddle together in a den or hollow tree in an effort to keep warm.
Are raccoons aggressive or shy?
Raccoons are shy. Though they approach homes and occupied areas looking for food, they don’t want to be seen.
One exception is that if a female raccoon feels her babies are being threatened by an animal or a person, she is likely to become aggressive to protect her young. But this is typical behavior for many types of animals.
What are some signs that a raccoon has paid your property a visit?
Knocked over trash cans and scattered trash are two big signs a raccoon has been on your property.
Raccoons leave behind their feces when they visit. Though their poop is similar in appearance to the droppings of other animals, they generally leave it in specific places. Raccoon feces are usually found around the bases of large trees, near woodpiles, or close to piles of brush.
Shuffling sounds coming from the direction of the roof is another sign a raccoon is visiting. Raccoons walk in a strange way with their back up and head down. They amble along instead of walking in a balanced way. A raccoon may move across a home’s roof in order to check for places where they can enter.
Are raccoons considered pests?
In some areas, raccoons are considered pests. This is especially true if there is a high population of raccoons in a suburban area. If there aren’t a lot of woods or fields for a natural nest, raccoons are more likely to try building a shelter in a home’s attic or backyard garden shed.
There are some pest control professionals who capture raccoons alive and relocate them to other areas. The trap is set with a treat inside so when a raccoon walks in and grabs the treat, the trap’s door closes behind the animal. The raccoon is not injured.
As a note, if you ever see a raccoon in a trap, it’s best not to approach it. The raccoon will be frightened and is likely to become aggressive because it isn’t able to escape. A pest control professional has training along with special gloves to avoid being injured when taking a raccoon away to relocate it.
Are raccoons endangered?
No. As a matter of fact, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the northern raccoon is considered Least Concern with an increasing population.
Biologists have learned that raccoons are highly adaptable to their circumstances. In other words, they’ve learned to thrive in whatever environment they are living in. This means if the raccoons in an area are not finding enough crawfish, birds’ eggs, or small rodents to eat, they are going to show up in a nearby neighborhood to check out the trash cans.