Twenty Essential Facts About Raccoons


Raccoons are intelligent, curious, and endearing creatures that find ways to be disruptive of their human neighbors. Raccoons that find food sources provided by humans lose their fear of people and sometimes move right in, and when raccoons establish themselves on human territory they can become very difficult to remove. Whether you adore the cute little raccoons in the woods and you are seeking to remove raccoons from your garden, flower beds, orchards, or attic, knowing raccoons is the first step to appreciating or controlling them.

1. Raccoons are omnivorous, eating almost anything.

Raccoons tend to eat any food that is abundant, but they prefer sweet foods. Candy and marshmallows are useful as raccoon bait that will not attract most family pets. Raccoons will strip small fields of corn bare just as the corn is reaching its peak sweetness. Raccoons will eat songbirds, woodpeckers, ducks, and quail, and snatch the eggs of larger birds such as turkeys. They will devour frogs, shrews, mice, voles, moles, rats, and jackrabbits. They will eat almost any kind of fruit as it ripens. And they also enjoy food from the trash.

2. Raccoons have excellent night vision.

The reflective layer in the lens of the eye that makes raccoon eyes seem to glow red in the dark also magnifies images of nearby objects. Raccoon vision is binocular, giving them depth perception, and the animals have the ability to distinguish colors. Raccoons do not have good distance vision, however, so they will avoid open spaces, especially during the day when the reflection of light makes distant vision less reliable.

3. Bobcats, coyotes, and some species of owls, such as the great horned owl, are natural predators of raccoons.

Red and gray foxes also sometimes eat raccoons. In the Pacific northwest, raccoons are also eaten by wolves, and in some rural reaches of Georgia, young raccoons make up most of the diet of alligators. Raccoons that live in environments where there are no alligators, wolves, bobcats, coyotes, owls, or foxes have no natural enemies other than irate homeowners.

4. Invasions of raccoons into human habitat is mostly likely when either food supplies in the wild or low or food supplies near human residences are high.

Raccoons go on the move when they are hungry. In the northern United States, they are most likely to be found looking for food in the garbage in the later winter and early spring. In Texas and Mexico, raccoons are most likely to be found looking for food in the garbage in the later summer and early fall. Raccoons are also attracted to ripening corn and ripening fruit. They prefer corn and fruit over all natural foods, but especially like pies, cakes, candy, and soft drinks. Raccoons may even be observed up ending half-drunk Diet Coke bottles to get their sweet fix.

5. Raccoons are never found far from trees.

Trees provide both shelter from both weather and predators for most species of raccoons. In the northern United States and Canada, raccoons often live in hollow spots in tree trunks that provide both a wind break and a small amount of additional warmth. Green belts between housing developments and woodlands near fields also offer good locations for raccoons. In the southern United States and in central America, raccoons favor marshlands where they can gather decaying plant material to make cool and comfortable dens that protect them from daytime heat.

6. Raccoons often wash their food.

The second half of the raccoon’s scientific name, lotor, literally means “washer.” Raccoons often wash their food, but not because of cleanliness. A raccoon will, after all, sometimes feed on dead animals that were caught in traps. A raccoon will wash worms or crayfish to get rid of dirt, but it washes other foods to have better skin-to-food contact in its paws. This allows it to inspect and remember the food, and makes it less likely the raccoon will drop the food it carries to its arboreal perch to eat in safety.

The washing ritual in which raccoons feel foods allow raccoons to learn about new foods through cultural inheritance. If two or more raccoons come on an abundant food supply, such as watermelons that fell off the truck, then the individual raccoons will know that they can eat whole watermelons they find in a farmer’s field later. Anything that appears in the garbage in pieces and is found by raccoons becomes a food that raccoons will seek whole. The “feel” of part of the food helps the raccoon recognize its edible parts.

7. Raccoons are powerful animals.

Almost any adult raccoon is more powerful than almost any adult dog. Raccoons are known to charge and fight dogs that invade their territory. There is a widely repeated although unverified story of a man who weight 91 kilos (a little over 200 pounds) who kept from falling from a tree by hanging on to a raccoon’s tail. Family pets will not be able to fight raccoons and usually need protection from raccoons.

8. Raccoons mate at the same time every year.

Raccoons mate during the spring when days reach a certain length. Snow cover, drought, and food supply do not determine when mating will occur. Shortly before mating season, a male’s testes approximately triple in size. Females that are at least a year old ovulate and become receptive to sexual intercourse. The male impregnates the female with with a penis that contains an S-shaped bone that locks into the female until she pushes him off her back, usually after an hour or longer. (The penis bone is so prominent that early native Americans sometimes used it as a cleaning tool for pipes for smoking tobacco.) The female only ovulates after she has mated, and she may bear cubs 50 to 60 days later. If she spontaneously aborts her offspring or the embryos are absorbed back into her body due to food shortages, she may mate a second time in the same year.

9. Raccoons often defecate and urinate in common latrines.

Although raccoons may leave scat in your lawn or garden or on your porch, groups of raccoons usually defecate and urinate in a common latrine to avoid spreading their scent across their feeding territory. Attics, garages, and abandoned houses are favorite sites for raccoon latrines because they are protected from predators.

10. Raccoons are powerful swimmers.

Dogs often drown when they pursue raccoons into the water. Even a young raccoon usually can swim 150 meters (480 feet) across a river or lake, and older raccoons have no difficulty swimming up to 1.5 kilometers (about a mile). The tiny, 2-kilo (4-1/2 pound) Torch Key raccoon swims between islands in the Florida keys.

11. Young raccoons and their mothers chirp, whistle, and purr.

Young raccoons communicate with their mothers through at least 13 different vocalizations that have precise meanings. As the cubs mature, they “talk” primarily to locate the mother, and as they mature, raccoons cease to communicate with other adults vocally. Raccoons of all ages are able to identify each other by sniffing their tracks.

12. Like dogs, raccoons can lower their body temperature by panting.

Raccoons have sweat glands, but they also cool off by panting. Panting draws air through the nostrils over the rugae, ridges in the top of the mouth. At the rugae there is a “rete mirable,” a miraculous net of small arteries and small veins that delivers moisture to the mouth. As the moisture in the mouth evaporates on contact with dry air coming through the nose, body temperature is lowered, especially in the head and neck.

13. Also like dogs, raccoons identify each other by sniffing their posteriors.

Raccoons have tiny scent glands surrounding the anus. The unique odors of these glands are identifiable to other raccoons that come within 5 cm (2 inches) to inhale the secretions.

14. Raccoons have extraordinary manual dexterity.

Raccoon paws have four “fingers” and a “thumb.” They can grasp small object and even snatch insects flying by. Raccoons learn how to operate knobs, handles, latches, and zippers, and can recall how to open a latch even a year after they learn the motion. Their forepaws are much more sensitive than their back paws.

15. Raccoons have a special adaptation that allows them to run on short legs.

Raccoons walk with plantigrade motion, that is, they have to put their paws firmly on the ground as they move across it. To outrun wolves and foxes, however, the raccoon propels itself by putting its back paws in front of its forepaws as it gallops across the ground.

16. Raccoons tend to have restricted ranges in temperate climates and cities. They tend to have vast ranges in tropical and subtropical climates and rural areas.

A raccoon may range over just 100 to 200 meters (1 or 2 city blocks) in an urban environment. A raccoon in rural Texas may range over 1000 hectares (2470 acres) finding food and water. A single corn field may be attacked by racoons living over a 400 square kilometer (100 square mile) area in rural locations where fields are separated by woodlands. Trap and release programs are of some value in urban settings but require considerable effort in rural settings.

17. Raccoons in Canada and Germany often carry parasitic roundworms that can be passed to people.

Up to 70% of raccoons in Germany carry roundworms. Canadian health officials have begun reporting roundworm infections in children who have come in contact with raccoon feces. There are medications that get rid of roundworms if the infection is detected in time, but untreated roundworm infections can cause profound brain damage. Small children and the elderly are at greatest risk.

18. Raccoons are edible.

Raccoons are described as greasy and gamey, but they can be eaten by humans. On the second voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World, his sailors filled up on raccoon meat. Raccoon meat is a traditional food in some parts of the American South. Special care must be taken to avoid catching louse- or tick-borne infections while preparing the meat, and the meat must be thoroughly cooked to avoid transmitting roundworm infections.

19. Raccoons are associated with clandestine acts in the culture of parts of the American South.

“Goin’ coon huntin'” was a traditional cover for womanizing, checking on moonshine stills, or attending Ku Klux Klan meetings. As the South becomes more urban and progressive, the cultural importance of “coon huntin'” has diminished, although a Georgia church sponsored “Catching Coons for Christ” in the mid-1990’s.

20. Most raccoons die as the result of human activity.

In areas where raccoons have few natural predators, they most commonly die as the result of human intervention. In a study of identifiable raccoon deaths in Iowa, 78% of raccoons died as a result of being run over by automobiles and another 10% were captured for their fur. Homeowners kill only a very small percentage of all raccoons. Raccoon populations overall are growing rather than declining all over the world.


Mark has a strong background in Engineering and a huge interest in Pest Control as a way of getting rid of rodents and other unwanted pests who can cause a nuisance in your home and garden. You can subscribe to his free daily paper on Pest Control Solutions and follow him on Facebook or Twitter

View Comments

  • I have been baiting moles in my yard and I mark them with a flag. Of the twelve I baited last week, probably 10 were dug up during the night. Is it possible that they smell dead moles and dig them up? What’s the likelihood of the mole dying so quickly that their corpse is still by the flag?
    It doesn’t appear that they are after the bait as one hole had the bait spread out all around the hole.

    • Raccoons are curious creatures and eat the same food as moles, but not sure what is happening with your moles. Why don’t you get a camera trap and record what is going on.

  • Hello again Simon. Per my message(s) below - we have grown considerably in our knowledge base of the Raccoon (bless their fruit pickin' hearts). I'll make this brief. In no way should anyone EVER consider feeding those cute little critters. Seriously. 3 coons turned into 7, into 12 and into 18. In our attempt to fill them up so they would leave our orchards and vegetable gardens alone - they sent out some type of raccoon telegraph that stated "the eats at our house were easy pickins". We were now purchasing 50 pound bags of dry kibble weekly. In addition to the grocery bill, they began bringing their babies (12 in all). My good god are they adorable. BUT! By allowing their moms to come up on the porch to feast with them, the babies were not learning foraging techniques required to survive in the real world wild. We were in fact hurting these critters and felt terrible about it. We have purchased two Australian Sheppards now, and that seems to have kept them away (fingers crossed). But anyone using canines as a form of coon control should know this. If it comes right down to brass tacks and nails, a raccoon will win every time! Their ferocious fighters. We're crossing our fingers that our pups know when to back away. Thanks for this thread, I've been following all comments.

  • Raccoons are in FACT pests.
    They cause millions in property damage each year and spread diseases.
    And since no homeowners policy will cover the damage, YOU will be hit with the huge repair bill.
    If you feed or attract raccoons and your neighbor suffers property damage or gets bit, YOU can be sued for the damages.

  • I am a huge animal lover!!! Honestly I don’t even kill bugs unless I absolutely have too, I’d rather capture them and release them outside!!! I have a very young raccoon that showed up in my yard alone a few nights ago and he or she ( not sure lol) had a horrible injury on the right side of his neck down the right side of his body and even a little on his right paw!!! His right side looks like raw meat. The fur is gone, he’s limping slightly and it just looks terribly painful!!! Like I said, he looks very young and he’s always alone, so maybe he and his mother were attacked by something and the mother didn’t survive, I don’t know but I can tell he is scared and definitely in pain!!!! I’ve been feeding him a mix between fruits, some of my cats food, and turkey and cheese hoping that if he gets some healthy meals it might help his body heal!!! I love wildlife and I really want to help him but I also believe wild animals deserve to be wild and have their freedom. I would gladly take him in and nurse him back to health but I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do...? Would really appreciate any advice u can give and also is their anything else I could be doing for him besides feeding him to help him get better?

    • Look for a wildlife rehabber in your area. They are trained to care for these animals. Please, it is very important!
      They aren't hard to find, just Google it! Just look up wildlife rescue in your state.
      This is the best way to help the poor baby!

    • If an animal is suffering, the humane thing to do is take it to the nurse and have it put to sleep.

  • We love our wildlife, and just one of many reasons we live where we do. BUT (lol). Every year for the past 5 years, our raccoons have shown up and eaten all of our apples and pears, the day before harvest. I'm talking about a large orchard and an enormous amount of fruit. How they do this so quickly is amazing. As someone else here has mentioned - our fruit has simply disappeared. Nothing on the ground, nothing in the trees, just *poof* gone. And now last year, they did the same to my blueberries and grape arbors, corn and tomatoes. I really wanted to cry. As we're talking about 4 acres, blood meal or electric fencing is not a practical solution. So, hubby and I decided "hey, if their not hungry, maybe they'll leave our gardens and orchards alone". So, we've taken to feeding them every night until they can't eat anymore. We've caught 12 of these wonderful creatures on our trail cam, so we know theirs quite a few out there. Are we doing the right thing by feeding them or going about this all wrong? Are we making the situation worse?
    Whats the solution if their is one? I sure would like to be able to can some of the things we grow and wait all year to harvest!!

    • If you don't want to trap and relocate them, then my only other suggestion is to get/ borrow a couple of large dogs and let them prowl around your orchard.


  • In the past three years, our raccoons have totally wiped out our pear and apple orchard, and last year, all our blueberries and grapes were eaten. Always seems to happen the night before we're going to harvest too. Like they know this, and want to show us who runs this place. They've also damaged my tomato and corn crops. As we're talking 4 acres, most deterrents are not practical.
    We wont trap or hurt any animal, even though we'd like to ring their necks (kidding). Anyway, hubby and I have taken to feeding them this past month - 7 in total. They are all named and we sit and watch them for hours. Do you think by giving them full bellies, that they will leave our groves and gardens alone? Or is that just a pipe dream and wishful thinking. I'd really like to know, as it looks like we're going to have a bumper crop this year, and I must can some of our harvest. Thanks in advance.

  • I have raccoons that come and visit often. One night we had two different pairs come to eat at the same time. The pair eating kept an eye on the other two that wanted to eat. Eventually the other two where eager to eat as well. They came up on the porch and kept their distance. Then little by little they came closer and closer until they were right next two the other two that were eating. On bowed its head low to the porch as the one that had food came up to its head and stiffed. The I saw the most curious thing. The submissive one lifted it head and the other put it’s front paws on its snout and rubbed them over it’s face to its neck. Then at that point it seems that it was excepted to eat. The other partner did the very same to the other partners face.
    Fast forward to 6 months and we have a new raccoon come to our door a wee small youngster, I saw him and put food out. Then I see another new youngster on the porch stairs the one on the porch went over to the one on the stair and did the same greeting, Rubbing his hands over the snout and cheeks and ears up to the neck.
    I have never heard of this until I’ve seen it with my own eyes. You say they greet each other like dogs do, but in each case I never saw the other sniff the others rear. Do you presume this is a greeting? I find it fascinating.


    • It certainly sounds like a greeting. I would love to hear from anybody else who has witnessed the same or similar behavior as CJ


      • We've seen similar behavior. Almost like a submissive posture of bowed head and lowering their body, and acceptance then from a sibling, parent or neighborhood raccoon. We think they are rubbing scent onto another as approval.

  • There is a raccoon up in the rafters of the eves over the balcony of my apartment. The weight of the animal caused a gap in the wood that allows me to see the raccoon. I immediately contacted the apartment manager to have someone remove it, thinking of the health risks. But now I am worried for the safety of the animal. What do pest control people usually do with raccoons, when they catch them? The property manager said they will close up the hole where it is getting in, before they try to remove the animal. Is there a chance that they will leave it up there, without food and water? What risk is there to the raccoon during this process?
    I put some food out on my balcony today, and this evening he made himself at home, eating the food, drinking water and lounging around for about an hour.
    This is the fall, so can I assume that there won't be any babies left up there? I have heard the animal making sounds that sounded like it was communicating with another raccoon. Do they make sounds if they are alone? I'm worried that there may be other animals left up there, locked in, and the property manager certainly won't want to go back in there and get them out.
    Sorry for so many questions. I have no experience with raccoons, and find myself quite distressed of this situation. I want to get back to my quiet life, but I also don't want the animal to suffer either.
    Thank you,

    • Michael,

      If you want your raccoon to be gone, then I suggested you stop feeding it and starting making its environment an inhospitable one for raccoons. I very much doubt if the buildings manager will leave a live or dead raccoon up there, if nothing else it probably goes against a state law. Why not just have a chat with the manager and ask what his plan is?


  • Mark,
    I found two young raccoons dead on the road, right next to each other. There was not a mark on them. They could not have been hit by a vehicle, as I live in the country on a road with very little traffic. This was also the middle of a very hot afternoon. I can't imagine what killed them and it's really bothering me. They were about 1/3 of adult sized and laying about 14 inches apart. They had not been there long or the hawks, vultures, owls, or something would have scooped them up or ripped them to pieces. Do you have any idea what may have happened?

    • As they are on the edge of a road, a vehicle or large truck may have not necessarily run over them but came very close, and the shock may have killed them.


  • I appreciate the interesting information about racoons! I have a few in my back yard that aren't a problem, & I find them very fascinating. Thank you for putting actual facts and knowledge deeper than surface knowledge, rather than just talking about how they are pests, and only mention ways to get rid of them. I really do appreciate that. In the end I have a hard time faulting them too much, since they are just trying to survive.
    I noticed the fur on the back/neck area of the smaller coon of the 2 I usually see, had a nasty bite on his shoulder area... It looked like a possible dog bite, or maybe a much larger racoon. Do racoon's take good care of themselves? Will they tend each other's wounds with their dexterous hands? I just feel bad for the little guy & hope he'll be ok...

    • Hi Diana,

      Thank you for your comments. It is unlikely your raccoon will be taken care of by other raccoons because they are solitary animals. Raccoons tend not to live for very many years because of predators, starvation or being hit by a car. If you know of a rescue organization local to you, then you may want to contact them. I suggest you don't try to catch it unless you know what you are doing because they can give you a serious injury. Remember they are a wild animal.


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