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11/22/19

Raccoons spend most of the winter hunkered down in their dens, but they can’t rest all the time. Instead, they’ll emerge every few weeks to forage for food and drink water. Raccoons are opportunistic foragers, especially in winter. They want food that’s easy to find, and lots of it.

Unfortunately, just because a raccoon will spend most of its winter hiding doesn’t mean they can’t still make trouble for you. The best way to keep raccoons away from your home this winter is to figure out what they want and make sure they can’t get it around you. To that end, here’s what you should know about what raccoons are up to this winter: 

Do raccoons hibernate?

No, raccoons cannot enter “true” hibernation. They will enter a prolonged state of inactivity called torpor when average temperatures drop below 15 °F, however. While in torpor, a raccoon can sleep for weeks at a time, relying on accumulated fat stores for food.

Unlike true hibernators, raccoons can’t rely on torpor to get them through an entire winter. Instead, they’ll have to wake up every couple of weeks to forage for food, restore body heat, and drink. If they wait too long to replenish their fat stores, a raccoon could lose up to 50% of their body weight during winter. 

Where do raccoons live during winter?

Raccoons are very adaptable, which is a big part of why they’re so wide-spread. They can and will make their dens in nearly any kind of environment, including neighborhoods. A raccoon usually makes its den in natural, wind-breaking cover. They’ll commonly move into logs, tree hollows, the underside of rocks, or other animal’s dugouts.

Raccoons are usually solitary animals with home territories that they’ll defend from the competition. During winter, however, several raccoons may den together in order to better conserve body heat. Raccoons den together when they have enough space and the den is suitably protected. You may find them under your deck, porch, or shed. 

What do raccoons eat during winter?

In short: whatever they can get their paws on. Raccoons’ adaptability largely stems from the fact that they’re very good at foraging for food no matter where they are. During winter, their food options become much more limited. When they come out of torpor, they’ll make due with nuts, seeds, plant stalks, berries, leaves. 

Raccoons are infamous dumpster divers, and that doesn’t change in winter. The fewer food options a raccoon has, the more appealing your dumpsters will look, particularly if they’re easy to crawl into. In some circumstances, a raccoon may even sneak into your garage in order to access garbage.

Will raccoons mate during winter? 

Raccoon mating season depends on the environmental temperature and food availability, but it usually occurs early in the year. Raccoon mothers are pregnant for around nine weeks, which means birth usually occurs in spring. Mating and pregnancy usually occur inside the mother’s overwintering den. Once the cubs are born, the mother may move to an underground den.

If you suspect you may have a pregnant or nursing raccoon near your property, let us know right away. Raccoon mothers are fiercely protective of their offspring. They behave much more aggressively than they would normally if they perceive you as a threat. Raccoons can transmit rabies through their bites, so they should be treated as potentially dangerous.

Why are there raccoons near my home this winter?

We have good news and bad news. First, the good news: a raccoon near your home don’t necessarily live on your property. It’s harder for raccoons to find food during winter than it is during the rest of the year. As a consequence, they might have to wander further from their dens than usual.

Now, the bad news: if you see a raccoon in your yard constantly, then they probably do live nearby. These raccoons are either finding shelter or food they can rely on nearby. Look for fallen fruits, berries, leaves, nuts, or garbage in and around your yard. If there’s any easily-foraged food lying around, you can bet a raccoon will find it.

What should I do about the raccoons near my home this winter?

Easily the best way to keep a raccoon away from your home is to keep them out of your garbage. Refrain from keeping any garbage outside whenever possible. Keep any garbage you do keep outside in sealable plastic bags. Take garbage directly to your dumpster and tie your dumpster closed whenever you’re not using it. Rinse out the bottom of your dumpster once every couple of months.

You can’t keep raccoons from finding any food or shelter near you, but you can block off the obvious stuff. Use subterranean wire mesh fencing to cut off the undersides of your porches and decks. Pick up fallen fruits, berries, and nuts or seeds as frequently as possible. Take down your bird feeder for the year. Make your yard as unappealing as possible, and raccoons will seek their food and shelter elsewhere.

 

If raccoons have one thing going for them, it’s persistence. Year after year, season after season, raccoons persist. Even if you think you’ve raccoon-proofed your property perfectly, there’s still a chance nature’s bandit will keep creeping around you this winter.

Luckily, you don’t have to deal with the furry little criminals alone. Instead, call on Varment Guard for help if you ever have a raccoon problem. We can remove raccoons quickly, efficiently, and humanely. Don’t feel too bad for the raccoons; they’ll keep on keeping on. We’ll help make it easier for you to do the same. Stay warm!