How Old Are Baby Raccoons When They Leave The Nest

Mother Raccoon with Babies

10.03.2008 — Raccoons are excellent mothers. They take great care of their babies. When the babies are young, they stay in a nest while the mother raccoon goes and forages for extra food to make enough milk to feed them. After about twelve weeks, the young have grown large enough that they start to follow the mother outside of the nest area (the nest is usually in a tree hollow or an attic) and outside, where they learn from her how to forage for food, and where are the best places to go. They are weaned by 16 weeks. The young stay with her for some time, up to nine months, and finally go off on their own. Although a female raccoon can give birth to up to eight pups (though four is average), by the nine months after birth, there’s usually only two or so left. She then finds a new mate.

In the above photo I’ve actually used a litter of pups as bait to catch the mother raccoon. This is a very common tactic that I employ when I am getting raccoons out of an attic. I usually can’t get the mother right away, but I can find the nest of baby raccoons and then set them in a back of a trap. The mother raccoon will always go in for them, and then I have them all, such as in this photograph. I am then able to relocate them to the wild all at once. I know that it must be hard on the raccoons to find themselves outside of their former warm, dry attic home, but the young stand the best chance of survival if they stay with their great mom. If I give the young to a wildlife rehabber who raises them and releases them, they won’t have learned essential survival skills.

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Do raccoons make good mothers? — Although there will normally be four to six raccoons in a territory for reasons of protection, Raccoons live a mostly solitary existence their entire lives with two exceptions. During mating in January or February, a female may stay briefly in a den with a male. In late April, early May, when a female has her babies or kits she stays in a family group with her offspring. A female raccoon spends a large amount of her pregnancy looking for the perfect place to nest. She will look to secret herself away in a cosy, hidden den to await the birth of her babies a week or so before she is due. After she gives birth to between one and six tiny, blind, hairless kits she will spend all her time attending to them. The female, or sow, has the duty of raising her young all on her own. This makes her very protective of her kits. For the first few weeks she will leave the nest only to feed and return frequently to nurse them. She will often patrol the area around her den looking for possible predators.

The Kits are totally helpless when they are born and will not even open their eyes till about five weeks of age. At six to eight weeks they can finally stand on their own. The mother raccoon will wean her young between three and four months of age. At this time she will begin taking them out with her to look for food. She can often be seen carrying a young kit in her mouth on the adventures. Even though the average lifespan of a raccoon is only two and one –half years, it takes about one year for the young raccoons to perfect their food gathering and survival skills. At this time their mother will start to let them wander off on their own, still keeping a watchful eye. By the time they are fourteen months of age, she will have left them alone completely. Female raccoons will become sexually mature around eleven months- about the time they leave. Males do not become sexually active until they are around two years of age.

See also:  How To Keep Raccoons Off Roof

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Raccoon Nest In Attic — Nesting Season

Raccoons very frequently create a nest inside attics and trees. The females usually have 3-5 young per litter. The nesting season is usually in spring, with peak time for birth in March, and the babies are often noticeable in April. However, nesting season varies depending on what part of the country the raccoon lives in. Down south, they might give birth any time of the year, even though spring is still the most common time.

If you have a nest of baby raccoons in your house, such as in the attic or ceiling, they must usually be removed by hand. You can’t set traps for such little animals — they will just stay in the nest, nursing from the mother raccoon, until they are at least 3 months old, at which point they might start to exit the nest to start foraging. You can’t just trap the mom raccoon and leave the babies in the nest to starve and suffer to death. You’ve got to remove them by hand, such as in the below photo:

Raccoons and nests — A raccoon will build a bed just like most creatures, and a raccoon inside of a home is probably looking to have a family. A raccoon is not picky about what it uses for a nest. Outside, the most common material used are long grasses and hay, though the creature is smart enough to cart fabric remnants back to a den location. Raccoon inside of a home are far more at ease. Insulation provides amazing comfort and warmth, and a raccoon will shred the material until it generates enough of a pile to burrow within. When it comes time to give birth, a mother raccoon in a home will be far more at ease than one outside. This is why most invading raccoons are female. If you’re going to remove the adult, you need to do a thorough search for young. There is almost always a cluster of kits somewhere in the home. If you’re uncertain of their whereabouts, wait until nighttime and listen for squeals and soft sounds. It’s difficult to tell a raccoon nest from other animals’ if you don’t have a trained eye. A squirrel nest might be just as large; however, a squirrel nest tends to be more intricate than that of a raccoon.

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How do I know if the raccoon in my attic has had babies — If you can’t find out for certain, it’s always best to assume the raccoon in your attic had babies somewhere in the building. Most of the adult raccoons that enter a building are females with the idea in their head to have a family. That’s not to say you won’t occasionally encounter a male raccoon in the attic, but females offer their own challenges when it comes to removal. If you’re able to get close enough to the raccoon to see it clearly, try to discern protruding nipples on its belly. This is a sure sign the animal has young. Beyond that, unless you’re a professional who can tell a female raccoon just by looking at it, you’re going to have to guess. Trapping a raccoon in your home is often illegal depending on where you live. Because of the potential complication of babies in the attic, calling in a wildlife removal company isn’t unreasonable. Not only will the professional be able to trap the adult, if there are any babies in the space, the expert will be able to find and remove them, too.

Raccoon nesting habits — The main criteria is a safe place, safe from predators and the elements. Trees are great, as are attics. The mother will scout around in its territory, looking for a good spot in which to give birth. During this phase, they will often tear open holes in roofs of houses. Once inside, or in any safe place, they will just find a suitable spot. Raccoons don’t build nests, like birds and squirrels do. They don’t really bring in nesting debris like sticks or leaves. They do, however, leave their waste near the nesting area, and all around the attic. If you want to see photographs, click here for raccoon droppings and feces identification.

See also:  How to Safely Kill Ground Hornets, Hunker

Raccoons and their young — Most people who have a problem with a raccoon in the home have a raccoon that is female. That’s not to say a particularly bad winter won’t drive male raccoons into an attic, but most of the time the pest up there is a mother-to-be, and she’s getting ready for nesting season. In nature, male raccoons kill litters that are not theirs. This throws the female into another heat cycle and allows that male to breed her. It’s a sad cycle, and female raccoons are all too aware of the danger males mean to their babies. Because of this, a female raccoon will often leave her normal territory to find a place safe. There are few places as protected from the weather and predators as is a human house. Once the female bullies her way inside she’ll set out to make a nest. This nest is going to be made of insulation and anything else she can tear off the walls of your home. Usually, though not all the time, the nest will be inaccessible to you, down inside of a wall or tucked into an eave. Getting the babies out is just as important as getting out the adult. Often, you can use the babies to lure the mother into a cage trap if you can get the litter nest of baby raccoons out of the attic first.

If you find a baby raccoon nest in a tree, it’s no cause for alarm. I say, just let ’em be! Unless they are causing you any specific damage or problem you don’t want, leave them alone. If you do want to remove them, be sure you catch and remove them all together, the mother plus the juvenile racccoons, so that the mother can care for the young after you relocate them. You can set a trap at the base of the tree for the adult, and them remove the nest from the tree by hand, and put them in an animal carrier, and bring them all to the same place when it’s time to let them go. Hopefully, the mother will find a new tree.

Raccoon nesting box — you can help out by building a nest box for raccoons. Any wooden box, at least two feet wide, with an opening of at least 6 inches, will do. It must be off the ground, preferably in a tree. That’ll help out raccoons a great deal. However, to be honest, and this is coming from a raccoon lover, I’m not sure they need the help. There are so many raccoons in cities now, it’s crazy! One more good nesting area will only increase the population. Click here to learn everything about how to get rid of raccoons in the attic, from the web’s best guide. guy listed in Cleveland on my directory of professionals. He’ll do a good job.

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How Long Do Adolescent Raccoons Stay With Their Mother?

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With the exception of mothers and their young, raccoons live solitary existences. The mostly nocturnal raccoon is an opportunistic omnivore native to North America. Young raccoons typically stay with their mothers for about a year after their birth to learn how to find food. During this time, mothers are extremely protective and will attack anything that comes too close to their young.

Mating

The months of January, February and March are mating season for raccoons. Most mating occurs during March, although raccoons living in the more northerly portions of the animal’s geographic range tend to breed earlier than those to the south. During the mating season, males expand their usual geographic range, presumably to increase the possibility of encounters with females. Although females and males may den with each other temporarily during this time, they do not associate with each other after mating; females raise the young on their own.

Infancy

Female raccoons are pregnant for around two months before giving birth to a litter of between four and six young. Raccoons are born blind and completely helpless. Their eyes do not open until they are approximately 3 weeks old. They will be between 4 weeks and 6 weeks old before they are able to stand on their own. The mother weans her young when they are between 2 months and 3 months old, and they will leave the nest with her and start to hunt for food with their mother’s guidance and assistance. During these first forays out of the den, the mother may carry the babies individually in her mouth.

See also:  Where Does Raccoon Live

Adolescence

As the young raccoon continues to grow, his mother will teach him how to hunt on his own and how to climb trees to escape predators. By the time raccoons are around 5 months of age, they regularly forage on their own as well as with their mothers, but they continue to den with their mother and their siblings. This family unit remains intact throughout the adolescent raccoon’s first winter. Although raccoons do not hibernate, families stay together in the same dens, sleeping through the most severe winter periods.

Maturity

In early spring following the year they were born, young raccoons typically leave their mother’s den. The average adolescent raccoon becomes independent at 10 months of age, some leave home as early as 8 months and some as late as 12. Females are sexually mature at this point, although males do not reach sexual maturity until their second year. Even after they’ve reached maturity, young raccoons may choose to den near their mother or somewhere on their natal home range. Young male raccoons are more independent, however, and may move several miles away from their mother before establishing their own dens and home ranges.

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How Do Raccoons Protect Their Young Babies?

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Raccoons invest months in raising their young, and the females do their best to make sure their babies are protected. While there are no guarantees that they can keep them safe, mother raccoons hide their babies in safe spots, teach them how to survive on their own and fight off would-be predators looking for an easy meal.

Raccoon Baby Basics

Raccoons mate in the spring and then the father abandons the family and returns to a solitary lifestyle. The mother will usually have two to five babies, called kits, about 65 days after mating. Raccoon babies are born blind and helpless, so it’s up to the mother to find a safe place for them to live. She will look after them and care for them until they are able to take care of themselves, usually when they are 9 months to a year old.

Making a Secure Nest

A mother raccoon makes a den in a tree or she may move into a burrow that has been deserted by a woodchuck or another animal. Raccoons that live around humans will take advantage of other housing options and find quiet nesting spots in barns, attics, basements and outbuildings. The raccoon family typically remains safely in the den for about seven weeks, and then they’ll move house, finding a new den every few days to keep predators from discovering them.

Keeping Babies in Isolation

When a mother raccoon chooses her nesting site, she selects an area away from potential threats to her kits. This not only includes predatory animals, such as bobcats, owls and coyotes, but also other raccoons. Female raccoons tend to be territorial and may not tolerate sharing their area with other raccoon families. Only when her babies are agile enough to run and climb will the mother take them outside of the den to begin teaching them to fend for themselves.

Fighting and Biting

Although the male raccoons can get aggressive during the breeding season and may fight with other males, they don’t play a part in raising their babies. Females with young can also be quite aggressive and will stand up for their families if they feel their kits are threatened. They will fight to protect their young from any and all invaders, even well-meaning humans that stumble upon the nest. Though predators may grab kits if they’re left unguarded, when the mother raccoon is around hungry animals are likely to look elsewhere for a meal.

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