Raccoon Facts

Do males and females look alike? Are there any differences between them?
Male and female raccoons do look very similar. Their only visible difference is their size. Females are usually 10-15% smaller than males.

What types of food do raccoons eat?
Raccoons are omnivores which means they consume both plants and meat. Their generalist diet is likely what assists this animal in being such an adaptive species and why it can so easily exploit novel environments.

A raccoon caught on trail camera eating marshmallows on a cold winter night in Laramie, WY.

How long do raccoons live for?
Raccoons in the wild will usually live 2-3 years, while raccoons in captivity can live up to 20 years.

Are raccoons solitary?
When it comes to raccoon sociality, males tend to be more social than females and have been known to form coalitions with other males1. Female raccoons are known to have strong associations with their kits during their first year of life, but they have also been seen associating with other distant relatives and non-relatives2. It is unknown how social raccoons in Laramie, WY, are and it is something UWRP researchers are eager to investigate!

1. Prange, S., Gehrt, S.D., & Wiggers, E.P. (2004). Influences of anthropomorphic resources on raccoon (Procyon lotor) movements and special distribution. Journal of Mammology. 85: 483-490.
2. Gehrt, S. D., Riley, S. P. D., & Cypher, B. L. (2010). Urban carnivores: Ecology, conflict, and conservation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

How many offspring do raccoons have?
Raccoons typically have litters of 2 to 5 kits, but it is possible for them to have anywhere from 1 to 8.

A mother raccoon searching for food with her 4 kits in a residential neighborhood.

Do raccoons have opposable thumbs?
No, they do not have opposable thumbs. Their paws are similar to weasels or ferrets, but they have no webbing between their toes. Having finger-like toes give them extreme dexterity and strength, allowing them to be the impressive problem solvers that they are.

Do raccoons “wash” their food?
Although raccoons look like they wash their food by bringing it to water and turning it over in their paws, they actually are not “washing” the item. They have a heightened sense of touch in their paws, which is made even more sensitive when their paws are wet. This tactile skill is used in investigation, and helps them figure out what they are touching. This is an innate behavior raccoons have from searching for food in creek beds and streams. In murky water and mud raccoons cannot visually see what they are touching, and therefore their heightened sense in their paws enables them to determine if the item they are holding is a rock or a form of food, like a clam.

When are raccoons the most active?
Raccoons are nocturnal animals which means they are the most active at night. They have many physical adaptations that are characteristic of a nocturnal lifestyle, including: a black mask surrounding their eyes to help absorb incoming light, an acute sense of smell and hearing and quick reflexes to catch prey with their dexterous forepaws. Although raccoons are nocturnal, it is not uncommon to see one during the day time.

This raccoon was caught on trail camera foraging on an early summer morning.

What is the average home range size for a raccoon? Does it differ by sex?
Raccoon home range size is something we are studying as a part of the project. So far it has been found that home range size is dependent on many different variables, such as availability of food and dens. There is a lot of variability in the size of home ranges, and even though raccoons are usually solitary animals, there are instances of multiple raccoons having overlapping home ranges. There is also evidence of overlapping home ranges between sexes and males have a larger territory than females. Not only is there variation in home range size between sexes, there are also differences in home range size between raccoons living in the wild and those living in an urban environment. Raccoons occupying an urban environment tend to have a smaller home range compared to raccoons that live in the wild.

What other animals are related to the raccoon?
Raccoons are in the family Procyonidae, which also includes animals like coatis, ringtails, crab-eating raccoons and kinkajous. Raccoons and their relatives are in the order Carnivora.

Can raccoons transmit diseases to me or my pets?
Yes, like many species of wildlife, it is possible for raccoons to transmit certain diseases to both humans and other animals. This includes viruses such as rabies, distemper, and parvovirus, as well as parasites such as roundworm. The best way to avoid catching a disease from raccoons, as well as other wild animals, is to avoid coming into direct contact with them. Raccoons are generally not aggressive towards humans or animals but if they feel threatened they may become defensive, which could lead to them attacking. Rabies can only be transmitted to an individual by the saliva of an infected mammal. Although raccoons carry rabies, the rate of transmission to humans is incredibly low. Raccoon roundworm is transmitted through raccoon feces and can cause severe neurological issues in humans. Therefore, you should always avoid touching raccoon feces or breathing in any dust when sweeping an area that had raccoon feces around it. For more information be sure to check out the CDC website.

What should I do if I see a raccoon on my property?
Check out The Humane Society of the United States website for more information on how to solve wildlife problems in a humane manner.

A mother raccoon with her kits investigating the perimeter of a fenced chicken coop in a residential backyard. Raccoons are known to eat eggs and small birds and mammals so make sure to keep your chickens locked up tight at night!

To learn more about raccoons make sure to check out Raccoon Natural History.