Raccoons: Everything You Need To Know
Raccoons can seem cute, but not when they leave garbage in your backyard or cause rustling sounds around your trash keeping you awake at night. Even worse they are potential disease-carriers and can threaten your health. So, it’s crucial to understand the behavior of these pests.
Types of Raccoons
Raccoons come in different shapes and sizes, and sometimes incorrectly categorized as rodents. While their behavior of chewing is infamous, they lack two large incisor teeth in the upper and lower jaws which are common in all rodents such as rats, mice, and squirrels. Also, rodents are a family and not a species per se.
Raccoons are classified based on the region they are found in, and there are three main species.
- Procyon Pygmaeus: Also known as the Cozumel Raccoon, these species live on the island of Cozumel located off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It is a highly endangered species, so chances are slim that you find it on your property in the U.S.
- Procyon Cancrivorus: Widely known as the crab-eating raccoon this species looks similar to its cousin in the U.S. The pattern of the fur is slightly different though, and it does not have thick fur. Also, unlike its cousins in the U.S., it looks smaller and skinnier. The crab-eating raccoon is found in certain regions of Costa Rica, and areas of South America around the Andes.
- Procyon Lotor: This species is the largest when compared to the other two types. You will most certainly encounter them around your property as they are found in almost every state in the U.S. The exceptions being Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. It is often referred to as the common raccoon because it is commonly found everywhere in the U.S. You will find them in Mexico, and in subarctic Canada as well. They have even appeared in Germany, and in Japan.
Besides these three species, there are others found in forest, and in desert regions.
Raccoons that reside in forests have darker coats, and those found in deserts have comparatively lighter coats.
Species of Raccoons and Where You Can Find Them
- Procyon Lotor Lotor: Known as the Eastern Raccoon it is found primarily in Canada around Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In the U.S. you’ll spot them in the New England states, and a few Mid-Atlantic states like Ohio, Kentucky, and eastern Tennessee. They are relatively smaller in size, and darker with black and gray fur on its back. Its mask is surrounded by broad, off-white lines.
- Procyon Lotor Maritimus: Found in the coastal marshes of Maryland and Delaware is the Chesapeake Bay raccoon. This type has a much grayer coat and coarse hair than the Eastern Raccoon. They feed on clams, small fish, snakes, and frogs when the marshes are not frozen over.
- Procyon Lotor Salutes: Called the Hilton Head Island Raccoon because it is found mostly on Hilton Head Island off the coast of South Carolina. Its fur is nearly solid gray in color except for a yellow patch on the back of its neck, and a dark black mask.
- Procyon Lotor Litoreus: This raccoon known as the Saint Simon Islands Raccoon lives along the coast of Georgia. It is fairly small in size and has darker, browner hair than the raccoons found along the coast of neighboring South Carolina.
What Diseases Can Raccoons Spread?
Raccoons are normally shy, but if threatened they have the capability to attack a person with its sharp teeth and claws. They carry some very infectious and dangerous diseases with them. These can prove to be life-threatening to humans. In this section, you will find a number of diseases which raccoons can affect us with.
We can get exposed to these diseases through their urine, feces, bite, saliva, or any kind of scratch. So, everyone should be aware of the serious health hazards they can pose.
- Rabies: The most common disease caused by raccoons is rabies. A person can get infected by a scratch or a bite. Symptoms include dizziness, loss of appetite, fatigue, fever, and muscle pain.
- Giardiasis: A microscopic infection caused by protozoans, raccoons carry this infection in their feces. They can easily contaminate water, surfaces, and soil with their feces. Symptoms of this infection can cause gastrointestinal ailment causing bloating, indigestion, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
- Salmonellosis: Salmonella is a zoonotic bacterial disease (i.e. an infectious transmitting disease). Signs indicating Salmonella are dehydration, abdominal pain, anxiety, loss of appetite, blood loss, high fever, and diarrhea.
- Leptospirosis: A bacterial infection contracted, and transmitted by a number of animals and humans. This infection can cause fever, muscle aches, jaundice, and headache. The severe effects of this infection might even lead to liver or kidney failure.
- Baylisascaris Procyonis: Also known as raccoon roundworm it is a parasite found in the feces. Exposure during handling or cleaning could lead to a serious disease like Visceral Larval Migrans, and can affect the central nervous system.
Besides these diseases, raccoons can also cause other bacterial infections and other fungal and parasitic infections which can harm human health.
The first measure to take in order to prevent these diseases is hygiene. It is extremely important to maintain cleanliness, and a healthy environment. Also, it does not allow infections to thrive or grow. Sanitation and hygiene are the basic maintenance you can perform to avoid the spread of infection.
Measures you can take to avoid diseases caused by raccoons include:
- Proper hand washing after playing or working outdoors.
- Keep waste containers tightly closed, and eliminate water sources.
- Avoid keeping raccoons as pets.
- Do not feed them.
- Never use their feces as fertilizer.
- Use disposable gloves while sweeping or clearing raccoon feces.
What Are Raccoons Attracted To And How To Prevent Them?
You can usually find raccoons in your backyard looking for food and shelter. Often you’ll find them ravaging around your garbage cans for scraps of food. They are always on the lookout for quiet, and sound places to live that are easily accessible to them such as a dark attic of a house.
How to Prevent Raccoons From Entering Your House?
Considered one of the most dreaded pests around your home and property here a few steps you can follow to help keep them away:
- Keep food out of reach: One of the key factors that attract a raccoon is food. They have a wide-ranging diet, but they are scavengers and will become regular visitors to your home if food is easily accessible and available to them.
- Don’t provide them with shelter: They are excellent at adapting to their environment. They seek dark, cozy, and comfortable places. So, a chimney or an attic in your home is something they will always be on the look-out for. Make sure these often abandoned areas stay clean and clear.
- Keep water sources away from them: They will look to quench their thirst from any water source that is accessible to them. Discard any empty bottles, and get rid of anything that accumulates water around your home. Make sure water drains are clear, and anything containing water is tightly closed.
- Keep your house well-lit: A raccoon loves to hide in darkness, so remember to always keep your house constantly lighted a bit.
- Raccoon repellents: You can sprinkle granular repellents to create a barrier around specific areas. Also, you can spray liquid repellents on trash cans and bird feeders. It may take a while for them to connect a repellent with that specific protected area because they are known to be quite persistent.
- Capturing the raccoon: If you’ve tried everything else to no avail you may just want to capture the raccoon and get rid of it. This may be your best course of action, and the most successful. However, for your safety, you should hire a professional to help you in carrying out the work of trapping them in a cage.
The Life Cycle of Raccoons
On average the majority of raccoons live up to the age of 2-3 years in the wild, and very few of them make it to the lifespan of 16 years in nature. However, some studies have found they have an expected lifespan of 5 years.
A raccoon will start breeding late in the winter, and give birth within 2 months as a female raccoon pregnancy is 63 days. Those females who breed late usually give birth to their cubs somewhere in the months of April and May.
- Male Raccoon: After the first spring of their lifespan males get mature enough to breed. Due to the presence of older raccoons the younger ones don’t really take part in their first breeding period. After breeding all the males return to their dens for the rest of the winter season.
- Female Raccoon: Most females are ready to breed for the first time at the age of 10 months. Females also go back to their dens for the rest of the winter after breeding. After giving birth female raccoons spend their time raising their cubs, and collecting food for both them and for herself.
- Raccoon Cub: Most will pass away before the age of their physical maturity, usually around 1 year. Newly born cubs can’t move on their own because of their weak legs, so they stick to the stomach of their mothers during the first few months of their lifespan.
What Do They Eat?
Raccoons are omnivores which means they can rely on both a vegetarian and non-vegetarian diet. They can eat almost anything they are able to find. Their most preferred food includes:
They can also eat food waste by invading garbage cans in urban areas. They can spend their days and nights in search of food.
Where Do They Live?
Raccoons prefer places with a large number of trees and heavily wooded surroundings. They make their dens in hollowed tree trunks and burrows sometimes abandoned by other animals.
Raccoons have the ability to adapt themselves to different environmental conditions making them excellent survivors.
Behavior of Raccoons
Raccoons are not very sociable and prefer staying in their den with other raccoons. They are seldom active during the daytime and do not hibernate in the winter. They are excellent climbers and are capable of climbing the distance of 35-40 feet. Another hidden fact about their behavior is that they are excellent swimmers too.
General Facts About Raccoons
- The average height of raccoon ranges between 2 feet to 3 feet (with their tail included).
- A foot long raccoon can weigh 8-22 pounds and are heaviest in autumn.
- They came before the family of dogs.
- Raccoons are well-known omnivores which means they can rely on the vegetarian and non-vegetarian diet.
- They are not very sociable and come out only to breed or search for food.
These are all just some of the interesting facts about Raccoons, and the headaches they can cause us. This is all just some of the basics, but there is so much more information out there to explore about these creatures.
More Related Articles About Raccoons: