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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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The raccoon (Procyon lotor), is a unique animal native to North America. It's not closely related to any other animals, with distant relatives such as bears and weasels. Coons are easy to recognize, with a black mask and ringed tail. Raccoons tend to weigh between 10-20 pounds as adults. They are mostly nocturnal, and are omnivores. Racoons average a lifespan of about 5 years in the wild, and have a litter of 3-6 young each spring. They are very strong, excellent climbers, very intelligent, and they are very skilled with their hands. Raccoons have learned to thrive in urban areas, and live in very high densities in cities, where they eat garbage and pet food. They commonly break into homes and attics, where they cause considerable damage, and they also destroy other property, and thus racoons are considered pest animals by many people. Raccoon control and removal, especially from inside homes, is best left to a professional.

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