Learning Center
Critters in the News

  • "Wild Pigs are becoming
    larger and  more
  • "House Fire in
    Altemonte Springs
    caused by squirrels"-
  • "Raccoons attack
    woman in Lakeland"-
  • "Rats overrun Orlando
    International Airport
    despite efforts to
    erradicate them"-   
  • "New Orleans 2 Year Old
    dies from blood loss
    caused by rat bites"-      
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Raccoons are communal creatures, creating elaborate dens where they can live socially with members of their family. When
these dens are assembled inside of an attic, along with numerous health risks comes the possibility of thousands of dollars of
property damage. Raccoon numbers are increasing in urban areas and generations of living alongside humans is conditioning
away their natural fear of people. A cozy attic and a couple trash bins outside make for an inviting living space, despite
anyone living in the attached home.

Raccoons in Central Florida (procyon lotor) are easily distinguished. Their fur is generally grey and black with a lighter
coloured underbelly, but the characteristic black mask around the eyes and ringed tails make raccoons unmistakable. Adults
normally measure from 2 to 3 feet long and weigh 10 to 30 pounds. Although Central Florida's raccoons are among the
smallest found in the United States (the largest raccoons are in the northeast), in rare cases, trapped raccoons over 30
pounds have been reported.

The raccoon is a North American native, indigenous to this continent from north to south. After being hunted for fur, many
escaped or were let go in Europe (mainly in Germany) where they were able to adapt and grow just as rapidly on the other
side of the Atlantic.

Native North Americans had many mythologies based on the raccoon. Some telling about the raccoon's supernatural or
spiritual powers, others about its sly nature and its ability to trick predators, and others still about the raccoon's amazing
fishing prowess. These stories differed through countries and tribes but demonstrate the raccoon's vast population and


Warm dark spots in forests and wooded areas make for an acceptable place to make a raccoon den. More specifically:
hollowed out trees, dense brush or armadillo holes could all be deemed satisfactory. These dens are normally individuals but
can consist of a small group of unrelated males, a group of related females or a mother raccoon and her kits. In areas
where food is plentiful, the raccoon population density increases and many dens may be located close together.

In urban areas where natural options aren't quite as abundant, raccoons comfortably make their way into sewer drains,
crawlspaces, spaces beneath mobile homes and attics.

Food Habits

Raccoons are omnivores, eating nearly as many nuts, fruits and plants as it does insects, worms, fish and smaller animals. In
many cases, a pregnant mother raccoon will move into an attic that has an existing rat or squirrel problem because she
requires a large increase in protein in her diet to feed the unborn and soon-to-be-nursing babies. Baby rodents are high
in protein and a simple, accessible food source for an expectant mother.

Reproduction and Development

Sexual maturity for a raccoon generally occurs after the first year. Mating typically takes place between the end of January
and the middle of March but can begin and/or end later due to region and climate. A single conception period takes 3 to 4
days and gestation lasts as little as 54 to as long as 70 days. If a female is not impregnated during the typical mating period or
happens to lose her kits early, they prepare for conception again in 3 to 5 months.

A litter averages 3 to 4 kits who are born deaf and blind for up to 3 weeks. Newborn kits average 3.7 inches long and weigh
2.1 to 2.7 ounces. At 6 to 9 weeks they begin to leave the den and consume solid food, usually being weaned completely off
of mother's milk at 10 to 12 weeks. Kits will stay with their mother for about 10 months before going off on their own, males
usually travelling 12 or more miles away in what is believed to be an instinctual practice to avoid incest.

Foraging Behavior

Raccoons are nocturnal, and obviously are more active after dark. It's not uncommon, however, to see a raccoon out
foraging during the day. While this used to be thought of as a sign of rabies, it is becoming more common to find healthy
raccoons, mostly nursing mothers, outside during daylight.

Depending on the availability of food in a certain area, raccoons aren't known to span long distances. If food is abundant in
an urban area, a raccoon's comfort zone is usually no more than .3 miles. As long as food is plentiful, a number of raccoons
can consider neighboring or overlapping areas home without conflict.

Raccoon Senses

A raccoon's exceptional sense of touch makes for great dexterity and use of the paws. Like a bear, a raccoon can catch a
fish out of a river by hand with ease.

  • sight- the least developed of a raccoon's senses. raccoons are color blind.
  • smell- very good at close range, but not so much over long distances.
  • hearing- they hear low-pitched noises far better than higher pitched noises, even allowing them to hear a worm
    travelling in the dirt.
  • touch- the most important sense to a raccoon. A majority of the portion of a raccoon's brain meant for sensory
    perception is relegated to the sense of touch. The pads of a raccoon's front paws are covered in a thin layer of
    callus to keep them safe and the tactile hairs surrounding their claws allow them to identify an object before laying
    a finger on it.
  • taste- although not picky eaters, in areas where food is abundant raccoons have been reported to pick up food

Signs of Raccoon Infestation

  • scratching or thumping noise in areas of the attic.
  • dogs or cats paying undue attention to the attic, wall voids and crawl spaces
  • droppings, urine, or tracks on the floor
  • actual damage (i.e. water leaks from gnawed plumbing, loss of cooling in certain rooms and/or insulation being found
    blowing out of air vents, lights & electrical sockets not working etc.)
  • chewing on citrus and other fruit and vegetable plants
  • flu and/or allergy like symptoms including asthma, bronchitis & other respiratory ailments.
  • recurring parasitic infestations of the home or business (primarily fleas and ticks).
  • torn siding, soffitt, or screen


Raccoons can be a considerable problem when it comes to disease. They are not uncommonly found with rabies, parvovirus,
distemper, or worse, raccoon roundworm (baylisascaris procyonis). Raccoon roundworm eggs can be found in up to 82% of
raccoon feces and can cause serious damage to humans if the eggs or the larva found in the raccoon's intestine are