What do raccoons look like?
Raccoons (Procyon lotor) are mammals native to the United States. They are typically three feet in length, with a 12 inch tail that is bushy and has rings on it. They weigh 15 to 40 pounds, with their weight being a result of age, food source availability, genetics and the location of their habitat. Some male raccoons can weigh up to 60 pounds. Raccoons have a hunched back appearance because their hind legs are longer than their front legs.
Raccoons have five toes on their front feet that are dexterous, meaning they can pick up things such as food. Raccoons are omnivores and will eat almost anything they can find. From clams, to snails, frogs to fish, raccoons are huge fans of water creatures. They will also feed on fruits, nuts, vegetables, seeds and trash, hence why they are sometimes referred to as trash pandas.
Where do raccoons live?
The preferred location for raccoons to live is in forested areas that have access to a spring or other natural water source. Raccoon populations can grow quickly in urban areas because there are restrictions about hunting and trapping them. Raccoons are solitary creatures with the exception of when they are breeding or when they are raising their young. Raccoons will eat together, only if there is a large supply of food in a particular area.
Dens are the shelters raccoons live in and raise their young in. Most raccoon dens weren’t made by the raccoons themselves, but instead are abandoned burrows, rock piles, brush piles, logs and hollow trees. From time to time, raccoons will choose attic spaces, chimneys, crawl spaces and even vehicles. Raccoons will choose a new den site every few days, to ensure their safety and the safety of their babies, as well as better access to food sources. While raccoons are solitary, they may actually den together with others if the weather gets too bad or it gets incredibly cold, such as during winter storms.
Reproduction and Home Range
Raccoons mating season happens from January through June, with the peak being between March and April. The gestation period for raccoons is 65 days and their litter size ranges from two to three babies or kits. The kits stay close to their mothers for seven weeks, which is the time it takes for them to learn to walk, run, climb and find other places that could serve as dens for them.
When they are eight weeks old, they begin to look for food on their own and by 12 weeks of age, the kits are beginning to spend several nights at a time away from their mothers. When spring time arrives, the kits will leave their mothers and begin their life independently. The size of a raccoon’s home range differs greatly, but it typically is no larger than a mile radius.
What is the lifespan of a raccoon?
Some factors that affect the length of a raccoon’s life are death from vehicles, hunters, diseases and not being able to find enough food and dying from starvation. Kits are especially prone to starvation because they don’t have deposits of body fat like older mature raccoons. The predators of raccoons are coyotes, bobcats, large owls, eagles, and even domestic dogs. On average, raccoons will live two to three years in the wild and in captivity up to 13 years.
What are some signs of raccoons?
Some signs of raccoons are seeing their tracks, scratch marks and scat. You can find raccoon tracks in the sand, mud, soil, and on railings and other surfaces that may help the raccoons gain entry to structures and other spaces. Raccoons have sharp non-retractable claws that allow them to be skillful climbers. Similarly to squirrels, raccoons can rotate their hind legs 180 degrees and run down trees head first.
Scratch marks on trees are a good indicator that there are raccoons on your property. Some other signs of raccoons are finding raccoon hair, markings and body oils on surfaces especially near their den entrances. Raccoon droppings are also signs and you can differentiate them from other animal scat because they are crumbly, three to five inches in length and broken into segments. They deposit their droppings on logs, at the bottoms of the trees and on roofs. Raccoon feces carry parasites and other diseases that can be harmful to your health and you should never try to touch raccoon feces.
In addition to their scratch marks, feces and other indicators, raccoons will make noises called calls. Their form of communication has different meanings for each call. Some of the noises they make are purrs, chatter, growls and snorts.
What kind of damage can raccoons cause?
Raccoons can eat your plants, eat your livestock and cause damage to your home, such as your attic space. If they make their way into your attic, they will tear at insulation and use the bathroom there, make holes and scratch up surfaces. There are some ways to avoid conflicts with raccoons. One way to avoid conflict is to not feed raccoons. Raccoons fed by humans will lose their fear of people and can become unpredictably aggressive. Feeding raccoons can also lead to overpopulation in certain areas, which can lead to the increased spread of diseases and parasites.
Don’t give raccoons access to garbage
Keeping a raccoon out of the garbage will also help you avoid conflicts with them. Garbage cans should be closed with their lids secured tightly. It can help if the lids are reinforced with bungee cords or weights to keep them closed. Additionally, securing and preventing them from tipping with the use of stakes will help. Keeping the trash cans in the garage or other enclosed area and only taking them out, right before the trash gets picked up will also decrease the amount of raccoon activity on your property.
Feed dogs and cats indoors and keep them in at night
Feeding pets outside is not advised and it is highly recommended they are taken inside to sleep during the night. If a raccoon encounters a pet trying to eat, they might become territorial and attempt to get their food. Pet food will also attract them to the property. Raccoons may attack dogs and cats if they feel threatened. Raccoons have been noted to bite domestic pets and cause injuries, the spread of harmful diseases, fractures and even sometimes death.
Raccoon removal in Northern Virginia
If you have raccoons on your property or in your home that are causing you distress, the best thing to do is to hire a wildlife removal company like us. Trapping seems to be the best proven method for the removal of raccoons although it can be exceedingly difficult to trap and remove female raccoons, especially if their babies are present.
If you have a raccoon problem, call a professional now who does animal control. Summit Environmental Solutions has expert trappers who are licensed, bonded and insured. We specialize in wildlife control and can even patch up the entry holes so they cannot enter the home again. In addition to removal and repairs, there are some long-term solutions that may help such as animal screening, vent cover and wildlife barrier walls. For more information about our services, contact us.