Raccoons are incredibly adaptable creatures that can be found in various environments and consume a wide range of food. If you have raccoons in your yard, it’s essential to understand their behavior and take appropriate measures. In this article, we’ll explore some key information about raccoons and provide expert recommendations on handling their presence.
Are Raccoons Rodents?
Raccoons, specifically the common North American raccoon (P. lotor), are not rodents. They belong to the family Procyonidae and are nocturnal mammals. Known for their distinctive bushy ringtail and mask-like black markings around their eyes, raccoons have earned the nickname “bandits” due to their mischievous nature.
Where Do Raccoons Live?
According to biologist and training specialist Thomas Ward from Critter Control, raccoons thrive in various habitats across the United States. They are commonly found in woodland areas near water sources such as streams, marshes, and rivers. However, raccoons are highly adaptable and can also survive in forested regions, grasslands, urban areas, farms, and suburbs. In suburban environments, raccoons often scavenge for food in garbage cans, gardens, and crop fields. They make their nests in tree cavities, rock crevices, underground burrows, and even human-made structures like attics, sheds, crawlspaces, and decks.
What Do Raccoons Eat?
Raccoons are omnivorous animals with a diverse diet. While they can consume birds and other mammals, they prefer easier food sources when available. Some of their favorite foods include nuts, berries, insects, eggs, fish, shellfish, reptiles, and amphibians. Their specific diet depends on the location and availability of food sources. In residential areas, raccoons may be attracted to bird feeders, pet food left outdoors, goldfish ponds, chicken coops, vegetable patches, compost piles, and garbage cans. Interestingly, raccoons exhibit hygienic behavior by washing their food before consumption.
Are Raccoons Nocturnal?
Yes, raccoons are nocturnal creatures. They become active during nighttime, utilizing their keen night vision and agility to search for food. Raccoons can reach speeds of about 15 miles per hour when necessary.
Do Raccoons Hibernate?
Raccoons do not hibernate in the traditional sense. However, during the colder months, they enter a hibernating-like state called “torpor.” In torpor, raccoons reduce their activity levels and sleep more. They seek shelter in areas such as decks, attics, chimneys, and fireplace flues to stay warm. During this period, raccoons rely on stored fat reserves to sustain themselves until spring.
What Are Raccoons Attracted To?
Raccoons are primarily attracted to food sources. They are opportunistic eaters and will take advantage of various food options available in their surroundings. Some common backyard attractions for raccoons include pet food left outside overnight, bird feeders, bird baths, goldfish ponds, chicken coops, vegetable patches, grubs under sod, compost piles, dumpsters, and garbage cans.
Are Raccoons Dangerous?
While raccoons are generally shy around humans, they can become defensive and potentially dangerous if threatened, cornered, or protecting their young. Raccoons possess sharp claws and can bite when provoked. Additionally, raccoons can be carriers of diseases, including rabies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), raccoons are known as rabies vector animals. In the United States, rabies is primarily found in wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes. It’s important to exercise caution when encountering raccoons and avoid approaching them, especially if they appear unwell.
If you come across a raccoon that seems sick or behaves unusually, it’s best to contact your local animal control officer for assistance. Raccoons can carry parasites like raccoon roundworm, which can spread to pets and humans through their feces.
In summary, understanding raccoon behavior and taking necessary precautions can help ensure a safe and harmonious coexistence with these resourceful creatures.