Raccoons are one of the most widespread animals in North America. These nocturnal, solitary mammals have a population that spans vast amounts of North America; and can be found from the Southern states to places in Canada and Alaska.
Raccoons live in tree cavities within a short distance of water. Raccoons can also live in rock crevices, hollows in fallen logs, and brush piles. Raccoons in urban areas live in abandoned cars, dumpsters, attics, and sheds.
This article will examine where raccoons live during the day and the differences between where raccoons live in rural areas versus suburban and urban areas.
Where Do Raccoons Live In North America?
Raccoons can be found across most of the U.S.; they even have a presence in some parts of Canada. They are found in both rural and urban areas.
Raccoons are not in the high Rocky Mountains or southwestern states like Arizona. This is likely because they cannot survive in harsh conditions where food is scarce.
What Is A Raccoon’s Natural Habitat?
However, raccoons that initially lived in the tropics have made their way north up the continent and can be found as high up as Alaska.
Raccoons are used only to be found in mixed tree forests in North America. However, they have expanded into more habitat ranges, such as mountains, cities, and suburbs.
Raccoons find a lot of food near water. Hence a lot of their time is spent patrolling the waterside of rivers and lakes. This is denoted by tracks around the area, often up and down banks to the waterline. These tracks mark the easiest route to the water to get to the food found there.
Where Do Raccoons Live At Night?
Raccoons are nocturnal, so they are most active at night. Raccoons often leave their daylight resting site or den and go straight to find food during spring, summer, and fall.
This is because although raccoons do not hibernate, they must gorge on food during these seasons, as in winter, as food is not readily available, and the weather often means they have to spend most of their time in their dens.
Raccoons that live close to or in urban areas will be drawn to trash cans and dumpsters as it is accessible access to food sources. Raccoons can travel up to 18 miles in search of food.
Where Do Raccoons Live During the Day?
Raccoons are nocturnal, so they reside in their dens during the day. Raccoons have adapted to live in both non-urban and urban areas.
Raccoon dens in rural areas are often in tree cavities and abandoned burrows in densely wooded areas.
Densely wooded areas provide shelter and have lots of vegetation. A raccoon den needs to have access to water. It is thought that initially, raccoons lived in heavily forested areas near waterways.
Raccoons often have multiple potential daylight resting sites and often move between them. Some raccoons even carry down each day.
Male raccoons (Boars) and female raccoons (Sows) have different denning habits. For example, female raccoons usually choose dens higher off the ground in tree cavities during breeding. This is likely because being higher off the ground in a tall tree cavity reduces predation.
During cub rearing season, female raccoons often choose lower dens, such as cavities in fallen logs or tree cavities. During cub rearing season (in more rural areas), their shelters are usually found further away from structures such as roads. Females also tend to use dens that are located closer to water.
Males also seem to move den more often than females. A study showed that male Racoons move more than needed to burn off energy, and it was suggested that this is because of a need to socialize.
Raccoons often only use a den for short periods; some switch dens daily. However, this is untrue for Raccoons in suburban or urban areas, where Raccoons usually stay close to their holes.
In rural areas, male raccoons can travel between 3 and 20 square miles, whereas females will only travel between 1 and 6 miles.
There is a myth that raccoons seen during the day are rabid. However, this is untrue. Commonly, Raccoons are seen during the day as they will leave their den if they are hungry or if it has been destroyed.
Where Do Raccoons Live In Urban Areas?
In non-wooded areas, raccoons use rock crevices and brush piles for shelter during the day. Raccoons also shelter in abandoned cars, attics, chimneys, dumpsters, and other buildings in more built-up areas.
Raccoons in suburban and urban areas can reach a higher population density than those in rural areas. This is likely because of the large availability of trash cans, which litter sub-urban and urban areas.
The readily available food and endless places to shelter present in suburban and urban areas mean that breeding is more successful.
The lack of predation from other animals, such as cougars, also means that raccoons’ mortality rates in urban areas are lower than those in rural areas.
In large cities, hunting and trapping restrictions often allow the Raccoon population to expand.
A Raccoons home range is usually about 1 mile in urban areas; this is vastly lower than in rural landscapes. Raccoons in urban areas can travel through sewers to move between locations.
Despite their diseases and cars, cities is the safest place for Raccoons.
The first known sighting of a raccoon in an urban area was in Cincinnati in the 1920s.
Why Do Raccoons Come Into My Home?
A raccoon will come into your home, usually in your attic, shed, or perhaps a trash can for shelter during the day.
Raccoons in suburban or urban areas tend to stay closer to their dens. So, if one (or more) has made your home a potential den, it is likely to be around the area and return as Raccoons have multiple daytime resting sites.
If your home has a den with a female raccoon and kits, they will be there for 8-10 weeks until her cubs are grown enough to leave the cave. A female may go her kits and return to them later.
Do Raccoons live in Family Groups?
Raccoons are often solitary; however, they can live in communities. A raccoon family consists of a mother and her kits.
Kits do not leave the den until they are between 8-10 weeks old and do not leave their mother until they are between 8 and 10 months old.
A den where a mother and her kits reside is called a natal den. Male raccoons have been noted to visit natal dens. This is more common if a mother has moved from the primary natal den.
Raccoons often band together during mating season, as well as through the winter when survival is more demanding. Raccoon communities can last for several months.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.