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, prey and food items, that allow this mammal to live so closely to humans.
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 found 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 relocated.
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.
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.
Raccoons can and are often very destructive. They possess tremendous power in their limbs 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. 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, under a deck or shed. 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".
In mid to late summer raccoons will remove and roll up grass and sod in search of 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.
Note how the mother climbs high into the tree, causing the branch to bend and allow her to easily access the roof with very little effort whatsoever.
Copyright by Prairie State Wildlife 2023.