Where Do Raccoons Live?


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.

Racoons 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.

In this article, I will look at where raccoons live during the day and the differences between where raccoons live in rural areas versus suburban and urban areas. 

If you or someone you know loves raccoons check out some of my favorite raccoon gifts on Amazon.

raccoon

Where Do Raccoons Live In North America?

Raccoons can be found across most of North America, they even have a presence in some parts of Canada. They are found in both rural and urban areas.

Raccoons are not in present in the high Rocky Mountains or southwestern states such as Arizona. This is likely because they cannot survive in harsh conditions where food is scarce.  

What Is A Raccoon’s Natural Habitat?

Raccoons originally lived in the tropics however have since made their way north up the continent and can be found as high up as Alaska. 

Raccoons used to only be found in mixed tree forests in North America, however, have since expanded into more habitat ranges such as areas with mountains, cities and suburbs.  

Raccoons find a lot of food near water, hence a lot their time is spent patrolling by 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 which can be found there.

raccoon

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 and 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 an easy access food source.

Raccoons can travel up to 18 miles in search of food 

Where Do Raccoons Live During the Day?

Raccoons are nocturnal, so during the day, they reside in their dens. 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 originally Racoons lived in heavily forested areas near waterways. 

Raccoons often have multiple potential daylight resting sites and often move between them. Some raccoons even move den each day. 

Male racoons (Boars) and female raccoons (Sows) have different denning habits. For example, during breeding season female raccoons usually choose dens that are higher off the ground in tree cavities. This is likely because being higher off the ground in a high tree cavity reduces predation.

During cub rearing season, female raccoons often choose lower dens, such as cavities in fallen logs or lower tree cavities. Their dens during cub rearing season (if in more rural areas) 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 socialise. 

Raccoons often only use in a den for short periods at a time, some Raccoons switch dens every day.  However, this is untrue for Raccoons in suburban or urban areas, where Raccoons often stay close to their dens.

In rural areas, male raccoons can travel between 3 and 20 square miles, whereas a female will only travel between 1 and 6 miles. 

There is a myth that raccoons that are 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 raccoon’s use rock crevices and brush piles for shelter during the day. Raccoons also shelter in abandoned cars, attics, chimneys, dumpsters and other abandoned buildings found in more built-up areas. 

Racoons in suburban and urban areas can reach a higher population density compared to that of rural areas. This is likely because of the large availability of food from trash cans which litter sub-urban and urban areas alike.

The readily available source of 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 the mortality rates of Raccoons in suburban and urban areas are lower than those in rural areas.

In large cities, there are often hunting and trapping restrictions which allow the Raccoon population to expand. 

A Raccoons home range is usually about 1 mile in urban areas, this is vastly lower than that of rural landscapes. Raccoons in urban areas can travel through sewers to move between locations. 

 Cities, despite their diseases and cars, are the safest place for Raccoons. 

The first known sighting of a raccoon in an urban area was in Cincinnati in the 1920s. 

raccoon digging

Why Do Raccoons Come Into My Home?

A raccoon will come into your home, usually, your attic; shed, or perhaps a trash can for shelter during the day. 

Racoon’s 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 be able to leave the den. A female may leave her kits and return for them. 

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 referred to as a natal den. Male racoons have been noted to visit natal dens, this is more common if a mother has moved from the primary natal den. 

Racoons often band together during mating season, as well as through the winter when survival is tougher. Raccoon communities can last for several months. 

If you or someone you know loves raccoons check out some of my favorite raccoon gifts on Amazon.

Sources

https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article/78/3/921/905392

https://academic-oup-com.apollo.worc.ac.uk/jmammal/article/93/2/447/920846

https://www.jstor.org/stable/3802774?seq=1

https://bioone.org/journals/The-American-Midland-Naturalist/volume-163/issue-2/0003-0031-163.2.374/Maternal-Response-to-Conspecific-Visits-at-Natal-Dens-in-Raccoons/10.1674/0003-0031-163.2.374.short

https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article/79/3/859/859250

https://www.jstor.org/stable/4500604

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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