With their face mask, nocturnal habits, and food-finding tendency, it’s no wonder why the raccoon is the most popular campsite bandit! If you leave your food in a cooler or trash in a ground-level bag or can, you’ll likely have a visitor from our masked friend to your site.
Raccoons usually make the woods their home. However, in some cases you may find them in abandoned buildings, storm drains, attics and garages. They prefer areas by streams, ponds and lakes where their next meal is usually waiting.
They can be slightly larger than the size of an average house cat, and can grow as large as 20-30 pounds. They have the easily identifiable black face “mask”, a grey fur body, and a striped tail. They have sharp, retractable claws which come in handy for climbing trees, protecting themselves, and catching their next meal. They can vary in length from 24-40 inches (including tail), and are believed to live as long as 5-8 years in the wild.
So what do they eat?ANYTHING. As Omnivores, they are predators of convenience. They will gravitate towards the water in search of tadpoles, crayfish, frogs, and snails, but they will also eat acorns, eggs, rodents, birds, fruit, garbage, the contents of your cooler, or whatever else they can find! Their front paws work much like human hands do, and they can easily open trash can lids and cooler tops…campers, beware.
Mating season is from January to February and by March and April, the little ones will be brought into the wooded world. The baby “kits” are born blind and helpless and will stay and nurse from their mothers for 4-6 weeks before joining her on hunting forages. Raccoons are known for being fierce fighters, but none of them more so than a mother with her kits. I know…they look cute…but steer clear!
They are nocturnal and the best time for seeing them is at dusk or dawn. Sadly, most of us see them at night with our headlights and this is where many of them meet their end. If you see one during the day, stay away from it as it could be rabid and a bite could infect you with the very serious rabies virus. If you see one rummaging through your trash, shine a light on it, make a noise, but try to avoid a confrontation as they may fight for those precious leftovers that you just threw out!