The Raccoon Family
|These little buggers are
raccoon count is
and four babies.
.. .. .. .. . .
|A second visit captured in pictures a month later
From the yard I could hear them clunking and clattering around on the church
roof, so I grabbed my camera. It was only a matter of moments that one of the
babies stuck his head out the hole. Then the momma poked her head out.
|Sigh ~ the blurry shots can be blamed on an unexperienced user with a new
camera. But nevertheless, I'm happy to have the pictures. Uhhh...not so
happy about that broken gazing ball though. Grrrr.
|The stovepipe hole at 10x zoom
|<--------------The stovepipe hole
|'Tracking' proves they are living in the abandoned church roof,
so I stake out my stand.
Description Usually gray-brown or orange-brown above, with much
black; grayish below. Face has black mask outlined in white. Tail bushy,
with 4–6 alternating black and brown or brownish-gray rings. Ears are
relatively small. Length 24–37"; Tall 7 1/2 –16"; Weight 12–48 lb.
Similar Species White-nosed Coati has long, thin, indistinctly
banded tail, and much less prominent mask. Ringtail lacks mask and
has longer tail.
Voice This creature’s vocalizations are varied and include purrs,
whimpers, snarls, growls, hisses, screams, and whinnies. Upon
meeting, two raccoons whose territories overlap growl, lower their
heads, bare their teeth, and flatten their ears; the fur on the back of their
necks and shoulders stands on end. Usually both animals back off
without coming to blows.
Breeding Mates January–March; litter of 1–8 young born April–May
after gestation of 63 days. Birth weight 2 oz (60 g). The Common
Raccoon uses its den for bearing young, for winter sleep, and for
temporary shelter. Although Common Raccoons are sedentary, males
travel miles in search of mates.
After mating, the male may remain with a female a week or so before
leaving to seek another mate. The female is lethargic during pregnancy;
she prefers to make a leaf nest in a large, hollow tree, but may also use
a protected place, such as a culvert, cave, rock cleft, Woodchuck den, or
space under a wind-thrown tree.
Young are born in spring and open their eyes at about three weeks; they
clamber about the den mouth at seven or eight weeks, and are weaned
by late summer. At first the mother carries them about by the nape of the
neck, as a cat carries kittens, but she soon leads them on cautious
foraging expeditions, boosting them up trees when threatened and
attacking predators ferociously if cornered.
Some young disperse in autumn; others may remain in the den until the
female drives them out upon expecting a new litter, as den space is
Habitat Various wooded and wetland habitats; common along
wooded streams. Often found in cities and suburbs as well as in rural
areas. Communal denning is common—up to 23 raccoons have been
reported in a single den—but usually only one adult male is present.
During the day in summer, the Common Raccoon may simply sleep on
top of a log, in a nest, or on a clump of vegetation.
Range Southern Canada through most of U.S. except for portions of
Rocky Mountains, c Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.
Diet Omnivorous, the Common Raccoon eats grapes, nuts, berries,
pawpaw, and black cherry; grubs, grasshoppers, and crickets; voles,
deer mice, squirrels, and other small mammals; and bird eggs and
It spends most nights foraging along streams and may raid Common
Muskrat houses to eat the young and to prey on rice rats nesting in the
muskrat’s walls (afterward perhaps taking the house as its den). The
raccoon swims in woodland streams, prowling for crayfish, frogs,
worms, fish, dragonfly larvae, clams, turtles, and turtle eggs; climbs
trees to cut or knock down acorns; and, in residential areas, tips over or
climbs into garbage cans.
The Common Raccoon’s nimble fingers, almost as deft as a monkey’s,
can easily turn doorknobs and open refrigerators. (In fact, the animal’s
common name is derived from aroughcoune, an Algonquin Indian word
meaning "he scratches with his hands.")
If water is conveniently close, this animal sometimes appears to wash
its food, a trait reflected in its species name, lotor, which means
"washer." The raccoon’s objective, however, is not to clean the food but
to knead and tear at it, feeling for inedible matter that should be
discarded. Normally this is done with food found in the water.
Discussion Native only to the Americas, the Common Raccoon is
nocturnal and solitary except when breeding or caring for its young. An
accomplished climber, it can ascend a tree of any size and is able to
come down backward or forward. Few animals can descend a tree
headfirst; the raccoon does this by rotating the hindfoot 180 degrees.
On the ground this animal usually walks, but it can run and is a good
swimmer. During very cold spells, the raccoon may sleep for several
days or even a month or more at a time, but it does not hibernate. It may
be out during warmer periods in winter, and sometimes even forages
then, but it does not need to feed, as it stores a third or so of its body
weight as fat and can survive the entire winter without eating.
Foxes, Bobcats, Coyotes, owls, and other predators undoubtedly kill
many young raccoons, but the automobile, disease, and accidents
probably are more important causes of death.
In some regions, "coon" hunting is a popular sport in late autumn, when
raccoons are very active, fattening themselves for winter. Such hunting
expeditions involve dogs trailing the raccoon until it is treed, at which
point the hunters shoot the animal. Sometimes, however, instead of
climbing a tree, the raccoon leads hounds to a stream or lake. A dog that
swims well can easily overtake a Common Raccoon in the water, but the
raccoon, a furious fighter, can defeat a single dog.