Our Wild Neighbors

Raccoon

Procyon lotor

North American city dwellers

Image of a raccoon, mounted with its four feet on the trunk of a tree, displaying aggression.

Description of the animal

  • Characteristic black mask runs across a pointed snout and pales on the sides.
  • Stocky body. An average raccoon measures 80 centimetres in length and weighs 4 to 9 kilograms. In the city, they can reach 25 kilograms or more, thanks to the abundance of food.
  • Bushy white-striped tail with four to six black rings.
  • Five long fingers with non-retractable claws. A raccoon's hands and feet are similar to those of a human.

Habitat and needs

  • Primarily nocturnal, raccoons can adapt their schedules to accommodate the best feeding and sleeping sites.
  • Raccoons are sociable, curious, and opportunistic. They can adapt to all types of habitats but prefer wooded areas close to water. Cities offer plenty of shelter.
  • They will eat just about anything: small creatures, insects, acorns, fruits, fish, and even rotting carcasses. In urban areas, they enjoy helping themselves to food found in garbage cans and gardens.
  • Skilled climbers, raccoons often make their homes in hollow trees, attics, barns, or sheds. They also find shelter at ground level in abandoned burrows or under stumps.

Relationship

  • Raccoons are not scared of humans, who in return find them quite likeable.
  • Their incredible manual dexterity makes garbage cans and compost bins fine dining options.
  • Sometimes while hunting for insects or worms, raccoons dig holes in lawns or roll up sod like newly installed turf.
  • They eat insects, larvae, small pests, and rodents.

Living with them

  • To prevent raccoons from wreaking havoc with your garbage, make sure your garbage cans are made of metal or solid plastic, with tight-fitting lids. If needed, devise a system to keep the cans upright and the lids securely closed.
  • To keep raccoons out of the house, block all possible points of entrance, such as uncapped chimneys, and access to attics, rooftops, and eaves.
  • If a den is too close to the house, render it uninhabitable with animal repellent devices or products.
  • Raccoons can carry the rabies virus. It’s better to keep a safe distance. If a human or animal is bitten by a raccoon, consult a doctor or veterinarian. Never touch a dead raccoon with your bare hands.

Participating cities where this animal has been seen