May 2015 - Raccoons

Raccoon in Attic

Trivia Question: Raccoons can enter and leave your home through an uncapped chimney?

 

Correct Trivia Answer: 

TRUE -  In many urban or suburban areas, raccoons are learning that uncapped chimneys make very adequate substitutes for more traditional hollow trees for use as denning sites, particularly in spring.

 


Raccoons

The raccoon (Procyon lotor) is a stocky mammal about 2 to 3 feet, weighing 10 to 30 pounds (rarely 40 to 50 pounds). It is distinctively marked, with a prominent black “mask” over the eyes and a heavily furred, ringed tail. The animal is a grizzled salt-and-pepper gray and black above, although some individuals are strongly washed with yellow.

Raccoon in Uncapped ChimneyRaccoons are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal foods. Plant foods include all types of fruits, berries, nuts, acorns, corn, and other types of grain. Animal foods are crayfish, clams, fish, frogs, snails, insects, turtles and their eggs, mice, rabbits, muskrats, and the eggs and young of ground-nesting birds and waterfowl. Contrary to popular myth, raccoons do not always wash their food before eating, although they frequently play with their food in water.

Raccoons breed mainly in February or March, but mating may occur from December through June, depending on latitude. The gestation period is about 63 days. Most litters are born in April or May but some late-breeding females may not give birth until June, July, or August. Only 1 litter of young is raised per year. Average litter size is 3 to 5. The young first open their eyes at about 3 weeks of age. Young raccoons are weaned sometime between 2 and 4 months of age.

Raccoons are nocturnal. They do not truly hibernate, but they do “hole up” in dens and become inactive during severe winter weather. Raccoons may live as long as 12 years in the wild, but such animals are extremely rare. Usually less than half of the females will breed the year after their birth, whereas most adult females normally breed every year. Family groups of raccoons usually remain together for the first year and the young will often den for the winter with the adult female. The family gradually separates during the following spring and the young become independent.

raccoon tracks / footprintsRaccoons may cause damage or nuisance problems in a variety of ways, and their distinctive tracks often provide evidence of their involvement in damage situations.

Raccoons cause damage or nuisance problems around houses and outbuildings when they seek to gain entrance to attics or chimneys or when they raid garbage in search of food. In many urban or suburban areas, raccoons are learning that uncapped chimneys make very adequate substitutes for more traditional hollow trees for use as denning sites, particularly in spring. In extreme cases, raccoons may tear off shingles or fascia boards in order to gain access to an attic or wall space.

Raccoons also can be a considerable nuisance when they roll up freshly laid sod in search of earthworms and grubs. They may return repeatedly and roll up extensive areas of sod on successive nights. This behavior is particularly common in mid- to late summer as young raccoons are learning to forage for themselves, and during periods of dry weather when other food sources may be less available.

If you need help with raccoons in or around your home, use our office finder to contact your local Critter Control office - or call 1-800-CRITTER (274-8837).

To learn more about a variety of critters visit our new "Animal Facts" resource.

Specific diseases transmitted by wildlife can also be researched from our website.

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