What You Need to Know About Raccoons

a raccoon holding a flower

Almost every homeowner knows one basic thing about raccoons—they try to get into your garbage. But there are a few more important facts to understand about these common yard animals.

Raccoons are Highly Adaptive

Raccoons are somewhat predictable animals, but they’re also highly adaptive to a range of surroundings. While they typically live in dens they create in hollow trees or out of branches and leaves, they can also live in other environments.

Even though they flourish most in areas highly populated with trees and near water and lush greenery, they can also make do in more urban environments. In these cases, they tend to create dens in people’s homes—whether it be in an attic, in between walls, or in abandoned buildings. Dark, small places allow these animals to feel secure enough to create a home. Raccoons also tend to jump around from den to den, staying in each only a few days at a time.

funny raccoon on white background

Raccoons are Nocturnal

It’s hard to notice if you have a raccoon problem in your yard or even within your home due to their sleep schedule. These animals sleep all day and are awake during the night time hours. They tend to do their foraging after the sunsets and when most humans are catching some z’s. If you see a raccoon out during the day, call animal control—activity in daylight house could be a sign the animal is rabid. Another reason raccoons may be out searching for food during the sunny hours is to accommodate their babies’ schedules soon after giving birth.

They Don’t Hibernate

Raccoons do not hibernate during the winter like other animals do. Although some raccoons store up body fat during the warmer months to allow for more sleep during the winter, not all raccoon species do that. In colder times, raccoons to shack up together to stay warm.

It’s not uncommon for raccoons to make their way into attics or other areas of your home during the winter months. Clues that they’re in or around your house include smudge marks on walls, decks, or near pipes and gutters. Droppings on your roof or near trees are also a sign.

To aid in keeping raccoons from denning in your home this winter, make sure there are no openings they can use as an entry to your attic or crawl space. Interestingly, many of these animals are skilled and flexible enough to enter through a hole as small as a softball. To keep raccoons out of your yard entirely, clear out your garden—removing seeding and dead vegetation. Ensure that compost bins, garbage cans, and chicken coops are locked and secured. Also avoid leaving pet food or water outside as raccoons won't hesitate to help themselves.

raccoon in golden light on grass next to a tree

They’re Not Picky Eaters

Like humans, will happily feast on both meat and vegetables. Acorns, leaves, insects, worms, frogs, fish, and even squirrels all make for acceptable meals for these animals. They'll even settle for roadkill, gardens, pet food, bird food, or anything else they can find.

The fact that raccoons will eat basically anything they can get their paws on explains why they're so commonly found in urban environments. Spots populous with humans offer an abundance of scraps for them to feast on.

They’re Scavengers

Since raccoons mostly use the hours they’re awake to scrounge up food to eat, they’re willing to be creative about where they source it. And these scavengers will stand up to challenges when it comes to acquiring food. They love to feast on food humans or other animals have left behind. Keep your garbage cans securely closed to keep these creatures from raiding them and making a mess.

raccoon in trash with muffin wrapper

They’re More Than Cute Yard Animals

According to the American Center for Disease Control (CDC), raccoons were the culprit behind 28.6 percent of U.S. rabies cases in 2017. These animals may be characterized as cute, if tricky, yard animals, but they can carry dangerous diseases, bacteria, and pathogens that you don’t want your family exposed to. Should you suspect that a raccoon has been residing in your home, contact an animal control organization to assist in its safe removal.

Raccoons aren’t the only winter pest to be aware of. Explore our site for tips and tricks to protect your family and home from many other pests that commonly plague yards and houses during the cold season.