Wildthings Public Wildlife Education

Thieves of the Night

      Pooor Raccoons!  They get such a bad rap.  They can't help it...they have to do what the "Big Spirit in the Sky" tells them!  OK, I'll agree that one side of their personalities is a bit ....cranky.  They can spit, snarl, lower down like a line backer or something and charge you, I guess they have their naughty nasty side.

      Then there is this side though..... 



              Raccoons for the most part are solitary creatures.  When you see them in numbers it is a family unit and usually the older kids are in training.  The incubation period for Raccoons is slightly over two  months.  Then mom will have 1-7 babies, born blind with a soft downy shorter baby hair.  It takes about 3 weeks for eyes to start opening, and this is when mom really has her hands full.  Raccoons in Colorado usually start off in a "birthing den" which is maybe high up in a tree to help thwart off predators.  Then once the babies eyes open mom moves them into a den where access is easier.  Remember, they are learning to walk and crawl and be raccoons.  The Female will keep the male away from the den and the babies so she will be a single mom.  As soon as the kids can they will start tagging along with mom as she makes her nightly rounds.  She will show them the ropes. 

    These two are about three months old and we are doing a "fieldtrip"

     Raccoons will try a bite of just about everything.  The bad part is if you left your dog/cats food out she just ate it, the good side of this is they eat snakes, all kinds of bugs, frogs, plus nuts/grains, fruits, and roadkill are some of their meals.  When the kids get old enough to start following mom it is not uncommon for the young to tire along the way so mom will leave them tucked somewhere along her route.  Sometimes she doesn't get back around to picking them up until the following night.  Once she's weaned the babies they start looking for their own territory, with spring babies this is usually late summer and on.  A few of the siblings may share a den for winter but once spring comes they are all looking for places of their own.  Sometimes a couple of the young will stay with mom  in her den for the winter, but by next spring her thoughts are on a new family.  A female can start having litters once she is a year old.  Mother Nature keeps things in check though.  Years of drought there are fewer litters and fewer survivors of the litters that are born.  A habitat can only support so many raccoons, like everything else, so if a Coon wants to eat it has to move on.  Add that together with distemper and a few other things and it hold the population in check.  Just because you seen a few or have one in your garage doesn't mean there are more.  Though, I would prefer not to live with them or have them in the garage, I'm funny that way!

      Due to Raccoons adaptability they are found almost everywhere in the United States.  They like any type of water: lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, and ditches, especially if large trees are handy.  By being an omnivore, and an equal opportunity one at that, they have learned how to live among people quite well.  We just sometimes squabble with our furry neighbors just like our human ones. 

This is a couple of our raccoons successfully released

    A Raccoon can live 14 yrs in captivity.  When they are old enough to make their own living they are 10-15 lbs, but an older Coon can be 35 lbs.  One confiscated Raccoon our Center checked in was 47 lbs!

   So when you are fortunate enough to get a glimpse of a "Thief of the night"...or even the whole clan in training, remember their just doing their job. 

  *  Remember if you have to handle any type of wildlife please be safe and do it with gloves.  We have a rigid routine we follow here at the Center.  When you see pictures of us handling a critter without gloves, right after the picture hands are washed with bleach.  And everything is quarantined when it first comes in to determine if it is sick.  Yes that can mean smocks and cleansing our shoes if need be!