What animals are famous for washing their food before eating it? Need another clue? They are somtimes referred to as the masked bandit because of the black mask on their faces and the trouble they get into. If you guessed the raccoon you’re right!
Raccoons are between 2 and 3 ½ feet long and weight 20 to 25 pounds (although they are sometimes heavier). A raccoon’s tail has 5 to 7 complete dark rings. They have front paws with fingers that can open latches and turn on faucets.
Raccoons are shy but curious. Most live alone, but will come together for food and shelter. They are excellent climbers and swimmers and one of the few mammals that can go down a tree head first.
They can see very well in the dark and usually come out at night, but they sometimes come out during the day to look for food or when they are traveling with their babies.
These animals make their dens in hollow tree trunks, rock crevices, sometimes under brush piles, and ground ground burrows dug by other animals. They may sleep in a leaf nest high in tree tops. If people don’t cap their chimney, mother raccoons may move into the chimney to have babies.
Most baby raccoons are born in April and May. Mothers may have one litter a year and can have up to seven babies, called cubs, at one time. They are born lightly furred and with a faint mask. At birth they are blind and weight about 3 to 5 ounces. When they are about 6 weeks old they will start to walk and climb. At this time their mother will move them to a safer den. At 8 weeks old young raccoons will travel with their mother.
How can you help raccoons?
Always remember that although raccoons are very cute they are wild animals, not pets. You should never try to feed raccoons or leave food out in the yard for them. This will only make them dependent upon humans for food and could get them into serious trouble.
Never make a fire in a fireplace or cap a chimney until you are sure that raccoons or other wildlife have not crawled inside.
Keep pet doors closed at night to keep uninvited guests out of your house.
If you see a raccoon that needs help or need information on raccoon-proofing your house, call Wildlife Rescue League’s Wildlife Helpline at 703-440-0800 immediately for more instructions.