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Archive - October 2017

raccoon Procyon lotor

What is a Raccoon?
A raccoon is a mammal. Mammals have hair/fur, four limbs (arms/legs) and a large brain. They are warm-blooded, that is, they can keep their body temperature at the same level no matter what the outside temperature is. Females of most mammal species give birth to young that have developed inside a special organ called the uterus. Some mammal species lay eggs instead of having live birth, but none of these species live in Illinois.

After birth, mammal young are fed for a time by milk produced in the female’s mammary glands.

What Does It Look Like? 
The raccoon’s back appears grizzled with its mix of yellow-gray, gray-brown and gray fur. There is a black line of fur down the middle of the back. The head is broad with black hair on the face in the shape of a mask. There are white patches of fur above the mask and on the nose. The nose is black. There are five to seven alternating light and dark bands of fur on the long tail.

How Big Is It?
The raccoon has a head-body length of 16 to 28 inches, and a tail that is eight to 12 inches long. It weighs 15 to 26 pounds.

Where Does It Live?
The raccoon can be found statewide in Illinois. It lives in a variety of habitats as long as water, den sites and food are available. It commonly lives in cities.

How Does It Reproduce?
Most breeding occurs between February and April. Young are born from April through June after developing for about two months. Litter size averages two to four. One litter is produced each year. Only the female provides care for the young. Eyes and ears of the pups open about two and one-half to three weeks after birth. They leave the den to follow the female two to three months after birth.

What Does It Eat?
The raccoon is classified in the mammal group known as “carnivores” because it is a large mammal with claws on the feet and primarily catches prey to eat it. However, the raccoon is kind of an exception to the rule. It eats a great variety of items including berries, dead animals, corn, cottontails, crayfish, fishes, garbage, fruits, insects, mice, nuts, turtles, bird feed and pet food. It will eat almost anything it finds or catches that is edible!

Does Anything Eat It?
Coyotes (Canis latrans), foxes, bobcats (Lynx rufus) and large owls will catch and eat raccoons. People are this animal’s main predator, though, through hunting and trapping for its fur and for sport. Many raccoons are also killed by vehicles on roadways.

What Else Should I Know About It?

  • ​Most raccoons live about two years, although they are capable of living up to about 16 years.
  • The raccoon can climb easily and is a good swimmer.
  • Sounds made by raccoons include growling, trilling and wailing.
  • Tree cavities are most often used for den sites but barns, attics, brush piles, hollow logs, caves and other locations are also used. Dens are needed for winter periods of inactivity, rearing young and sleeping during the day.
  • Raccoons are active at night.
  • It is not true that these mammals wash their food before eating it. They are often seen using their front feet to feel for crayfish and other prey in water and that may be why the idea arose that they are washing their food.

Can I Hunt It?
​The raccoon may be legally hunted and trapped in Illinois following all relevant laws and regulations. You can find general information about hunting in Illinois here. Specific hunting information about raccoons is included in the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations. A list of public hunting areas is available here. 

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