Raccoon Facts: Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

Raccoons are a troublesome species. They’re known for rummaging through your garbage, and for invading your attic to raise their young. Raccoons are also a major source of rabies and carry plenty of other diseases and parasites. They are also widespread and can be found in urban, suburban, and rural areas making them a very common pest. Yet all of this aside, what are raccoons really like?

Raccoon Facts

Anatomy

Raccoons are famous thanks to the patch of black fur on their face, obscuring their little heads and turning them into burglars. Their bodies are covered with grey fur, and they have a long bushy tail that’s encircled by black bands. These mammals are also pretty small, and grow up to be between 23 and 37 inches long. Because of this, it’s easy to compare their size to an adult cat or a small dog. And similar to domestic cats, raccoons weigh anywhere between 4 to 23 pounds. Find more biology information here.

Diet

There’s a reason raccoons go digging through your trash, and that’s because of their diet. It should come as no surprise that raccoons are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and meat.

Raccoons do a lot of hunting out in the wild, and they tend to go after insects, mice, and bird eggs. They’re also very fast animals, and use their quick reflexes to snatch up frogs and small fish from nearby streams or ponds.

That said, raccoons prefer to eat insects and other invertebrates, as they’re easier to find in abundance. It’s also worth mentioning that raccoons have no problem scavenging for food, and are even known to raid people’s trash cans or eat roadkill and other dead animals.

Habitat

This may come as a surprise, but raccoons can’t actually be found everywhere in the world. These animals are actually native to the American continent and are found all over Central and North America. That said, raccoons have started spreading to Japan and Europe in recent years, where they were brought in as pets or stowed away on ships.

These animals enjoy living in heavily forested areas, like fields, forests, and jungles. Raccoons have access to everything they want in these places, like food, water, and spots to build their dens.

Raccoons like to live in small, dark, and enclosed spaces. That’s why they build their dens inside hollowed trees, caves, and the abandoned dens of other animals. Yet these smart and adaptable creatures find clever ways of surviving anywhere, including in human-inhabited areas. It’s why they can be found in barns, attics, and plenty of other buildings as well since these places resemble their natural habitats.

Behavior

Raccoons can give you a fright when they make a sudden noise in the dead of the night.  That’s because they’re nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day but are awake at night. It’s also why you’ll spot a raccoon’s handy work the next day, as they were busy rummaging through your garbage while you slept.

You might have noticed that you spot fewer raccoons during the winter, but why is that? Raccoons don’t hibernate, so that’s not the reason. Instead, these animals tend to sleep more frequently and for longer during the snowy months, where they rely on their body’s stored fat for energy.

The reason you rarely see a group of raccoons is because they’re not the most social animals out there. They prefer living on their own, but still want to be close enough to two or three other raccoons for protection against predators.

If you do see a group of raccoons, it’ll often be because a female raccoon is raising her young in your attic. The female raccoon uses her incredible climbing abilities to find a safe spot to give birth to her young and raise them. These young will be developed inside the mother for anywhere between eight to ten weeks before she gives birth to them in the early summer. Once she’s given birth, the female raccoon is responsible for raising her litter, which is made up of one to seven baby raccoons.

These kits spend the first few weeks of their lives under the complete protection of the mother, but they start wandering out on their own once they’re about three months old. The raccoons become independent just a few months later when they become eight months old. It’s during this time that they leave their mother for good, and go about their solitary lives. Sadly, these raccoons won’t live for much longer, as their average life span is between two to three years. 


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