Prairie State Wildlife

Raccoon  Procyon lotor
Illinois raccoons, especially in the Chicagoland area, are the number one nuisance wildlife species providing for the most service calls to Prairie State Wildlife.  

The raccoon, Procyon lotor, is common throughout the state of Illinois and is very adaptable.  Raccoons often den surprisingly close to humans and often den inside their residences.  Raccoons can den anywhere, in the attic, in fireplaces, crawlspaces, under cement stoops, sheds, decks and in voids behind wallboard.  Raccoons are voracious eaters and consume numerous prey items including fish, birds, insects, mammals, amphibians, shellfish, mussels and numerous species of plants including fruits, nuts and grasses.  It is this amazing ability to adapt to so many different denning sites and prey and food items, that allow this mammal to live so closely to humans. Captured raccoon removed from roof.   


Refuse from human activities provide excellent food sources for raccoons.  Many foodstuffs placed in the garbage provide raccoons with easily obtained food sources.  Raccoons often feed on leftover chicken, pizza, salad, fruit, vegetables, cakes, pies and more. The high adaptability of raccoons to human activity, the ease of finding suitable denning locations, and easy access to food sources has resulted in an explosion in recent years in the number of raccoons in suburban Chicago.


In addition to their adaptability, raccoons possess a high ability to learn and figure out problems.  It is this ability to learn that can make raccoon trapping quite difficult, especially for animals that have been previously captured and released. 


Northern Illinois raccoons generally breed in February and March.  Some limited breeding occurs through June with females born later in the previous year.  It is at this time of year we receive many calls regarding raccoons fighting in the attic as the males pursue females.  The gestation period for raccoons is approximately 63 days and most litters are born in April and May.  Late bred females may give birth as late as August.  


Baby raccoons removed from attic.Average litter size is between three and five cubs and they open their eyes at approximately three weeks of age. Most juvenile raccoons are weaned between two and four months of age. Often, after 8 weeks, young raccoons can be seen by their mother’s side on nightly foraging trips.  Mother raccoons, we have discovered, will stay inside customer residences as long as six days postpartum to recuperate from the strenuous birthing process.  Raccoon families generally remain together the first year and often den together their first winter.  


Raccoons are primarily nocturnal and are most active at night.  Peak activity times are approximately 10pm to 4am.  Customers occasionally report seeing raccoons before sundown but this usually occurs in summer when heat builds up in the attics and sunset is around 9pm. 
Raccoon damage to soffit on residence.

Raccoons can and are often very destructive.  They possess tremendous power and their front paw has a somewhat opposable thumb.  They cause damage to residential and commercial properties by entering the attic spaces by removing attic vents, attic power ventilator covers or removing roof shingles and decking material.  Often they will
push aluminum and vinyl soffit up where a lower roof intersects with an upper roof and gain entrance into the attic (see photo).  Once entrance to the attic is gained, destruction of the insulation can take place from compaction, defecation and overall destruction of the structural integrity of the insulation.   Raccoons in addition to denning in the attic, may den down your chimney, under your front stoop or under a backyard deck.  Customers often discover raccoons denning in these areas because a family pet discovers them, a smell develops, a flea infestation develops or they hear the young "chirping". 

Grubbing sign caused by raccoons in lawn.In mid to late summer raccoons will remove and roll up grass and sod to search for food.  Food stuffs most sought after at this time are earthworms and particularly attractive and inviting are the  "c shaped" grubs (larvae of the june bug) living in and under the root system of your lawn.

 
Trapping and removing raccoons from the area is the most effective control measure for this species.


Prairie State Wildlife
P.O. Box 224 Oswego, IL 60543 US
Phone: (630) 687-3414 Website: www.prairiestatewildlife.com