Mother Raccoon with Babies
- 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.
Do it yourself: Visit my How To Get Rid of Raccoons page for tips and advice.
Get professional help: Visit my Nationwide Pro Directory of wildlife removal experts.
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.
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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.