When Do Raccoons Leave The Nest
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Living in Harmony With Raccoons
Raccoons share a common ancestry with bears, and they originally lived in forests close to waterways. Like their cousins, raccoons are true omnivores who eat a wide variety of foods, including nuts, seeds, fruits, eggs, insects, frogs, and crayfish. They will eat whatever is available, using their dexterous paws to pluck morsels from small hiding places.
Raccoons possess acute senses of sight and hearing and a highly developed sense of touch. A raccoon’s forefeet are extremely agile and resemble human hands with their five slender fingers. Highly independent and somewhat solitary creatures, raccoons are nocturnal. They hunt at night camouflaged by their distinctive coats and rest by day in the hollows of high trees.
Though humans have occupied the vast majority of their traditional habitat, raccoons are opportunistic and curious animals and have learned to coexist with people. For these reasons, close encounters between raccoons and humans are extremely common in urban and suburban areas.
These clever, gregarious animals with the characteristic black mask surrounding their eyes have been known to pry the lids off sealed garbage cans, raid campsites and coolers, and even turn on the tap for a drink of water. While some people take great delight in watching raccoons’ nightly antics, others consider the animals’ high jinks a nuisance. Thankfully, there are plenty of humane, common-sense solutions to perceived conflicts with these wild animals.
Did You Know?
Raccoons are widely known for their unusual habit of “washing” their food or hands in water. In fact, the scientific name for the raccoon is Procyon lotor, the Latin word “lotor” meaning “washer.” Many theories have been proposed to explain why raccoons engage in this interesting ritual, but most scientists believe that it is related to raccoons’ innate tendency to forage for food near water sources.
Solving Conflicts Compassionately
Because raccoons are opportunistic feeders, the key to resolving conflicts with them is to contain available food sources. Once food is contained, raccoons will move on. Seal garbage cans (use bungee cords on lids), cover compost bins, and place netting over fish ponds. Putting out garbage on the day that it will be picked up will discourage raccoons from frequenting the area. Feed companion animals inside or be sure to remove any food placed outside when the animals are finished eating. Most importantly, never feed wildlife! Also, keep an outdoor light or radio on at night or use motion-detector lights or sprinklers to deter raccoons.
Raccoons give birth from January through June and often use attics and chimneys as dens to raise their young. If you discover a family of raccoons nesting in or around your home, the animals should not be removed until fall (when nesting season has ended) in order to avoid separating young raccoons from their parents. It is inhumane to let the little ones starve to death, and the mother will also try frantically to reach her young and could damage your property in the process. Young raccoons do not venture out of the nest until they are 8 to 9 weeks of age. Trapping and moving the family is not recommended because it will almost certainly separate the mother from her young. Furthermore, relocating solitary raccoons or small raccoon families is illegal in most places and will likely result in their being mauled and killed by resident raccoons.
When you’re certain that the young raccoons have left the nest, frightening devices, such as a portable radio or a mechanic’s light, can be used to evict the animals. Making the area as smelly as possible by placing a few ammonia-soaked rags is a very useful deterrent. Because raccoons are nocturnal animals, evicting them is easiest around dusk when they begin their nightly routines. Storms, dogs barking, or other atypical outdoor disturbances can delay eviction. If raccoons must be evicted during nesting season for safety reasons, it can take several days for a mother to move babies to a new nest once humane deterrents are in place.
Once you are certain that the raccoons have left, carefully inspect the area for animals before installing exclusion devices. Install a chimney cap and repair and seal openings. Never use smoke or fire to drive animals out of chimneys. This will almost certainly kill young animals who are not physically able to leave on their own—whether they be raccoons, squirrels, opossums, or birds. Once areas are sealed, watch and listen for signs that young animals have been trapped inside, including young animals crying out or moving inside walls or fixtures, mothers pacing in the vicinity, or mothers scratching, chewing, or pawing at the area. If you discover that young animals have been sealed inside, reopen the sealed area immediately so that the mother can attend to her young.
If for some reason you find an adult raccoon in your home after you seal off points of entry, remain calm. If left alone, raccoons will not cause any harm. The best thing to do is to close openings providing access to other parts of the house, open windows and doors through which the raccoon can exit, and then wait quietly for the animal to escape.
Once the raccoons have been evicted, you should not attempt to trap and remove raccoons from the property. Trapping and removing them will do nothing for long-term control, as the newly vacant niche will quickly be filled by raccoons from surrounding areas. Relocating raccoons—even to wild or wooded areas—is illegal in many places and will likely result in their death.
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.
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.
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.