There is a broad range of habitats where raccoons live and can make themselves comfortable, but one thing’s for sure: You don’t want a raccoon to make himself at home in your home. If you learn a little about where raccoons live, you will get to know the animals better and as a result, you will be able to live in the same area as raccoons without any inconvenience. Most important, understanding raccoon habitat preferences will help you to determine whether your house is at risk and how to protect your property from the critters in a humane way.
Raccoons have become a familiar sight in most of the U.S. There are only a few states where raccoons are not present, and their distribution is constantly changing and expanding. As you will read below, the fact that raccoons are present in so many states, and probably in your neighborhood, is a clear indicator of the raccoon’s amazing ability to adapt.
In Which Countries Do Raccoons Live?
Raccoons live all over North America. Several sources confirm that raccoons are actually native to this part of the world. Today, the biggest raccoon population is found in Canada and the United States. The only region where raccoons are not present is in some southwestern states, like Utah, Nevada and Arizona.
Raccoons can also be found in Mexico and in the northern part of South America. Moreover, during the 20th century, raccoons were subject to human intervention that brought them to different parts of the world. Following the growing fur trade and the demand for raccoons as pets, the animals were taken to European countries like Germany and Russia, as well as Japan in Asia.
In time, the fur trade practically stopped; however, many people who had adopted raccoons as pets released them. Once the raccoons grew up and lost their puppy-like cuteness, their owners were confronted with the difficulties of raising raccoons as pets and quickly got rid of the problem by releasing the animals into the wild. As a consequence, these countries now have thriving raccoon communities.
The fact that raccoons can be found in such diverse countries and environments should give you a real clue as to their amazing capability to adapt to different situations. Later we will explain why their adaptability needs to be taken into consideration if you have raccoons in your area.
What Does A Typical Raccoon Habitat Look Like?
Just as raccoons can live in different countries with different climates, their habitats too can be extremely diverse.
Raccoons prefer to live in the forest or wooded areas with rivers, streams, lakes or other sources of water close by. If in the vicinity there are corn fields or other cultivated farm crops, then you have a perfect raccoon habitat.
If you do not live in a place that meets these criteria, don’t think you’ll never have a chance to meet one of these funny creatures. Through the years, raccoons have moved to areas that do not represent their typical habitat. For example, you can now find raccoons in coastal marshes and mountainous areas. The Rocky Mountains were long uninhabited by raccoons, but now the critters are present in the western Rockies too. In new habitats like this, raccoons have been able to survive and thrive.
Apart from the geological configuration of the territory, there a few things that are essential for raccoons to establish and survive in a particular area. They need to have adequate protection from predators, easy denning options and plenty of food and water nearby.
This is why wooded areas, generally speaking, are the preferred raccoon habitat. Vertical structures, like trees, make raccoons feel safe. Whenever a raccoon feels threatened, he will climb the tree or another tall structure that can keep him away from his enemies. This compelling need to feel safe is one of the reasons raccoons do not live in open areas. They even avoid places with a lot of beech trees, which cannot bear the raccoons’ weight when they try to climb. From the raccoons’ perspective, these environments are too unsafe, so the animals tend to avoid such areas altogether.
When it comes to raccoon dens they become really lazy bums. You may be familiar with images of raccoons busily exploring, touching things with their hands and washing their food. Raccoons are truly active creatures. But when it comes to finding shelter for the night, raccoons display an entirely different personality. They don’t even think about building their own dens, becoming opportunists instead.
Try to imagine you’re in the forest at dusk, observing raccoons as they come out of their dens to look for food. You would be surprised to see them popping up from all manner of places, such as hollow trees, burrows of other animals, caves, nests abandoned by squirrels, rock clefts, groundhog holes or any other spot that can offer some shelter. During the hottest season, they can even sleep in the forks of trees or simply on the ground. Therefore an area that offers easy options to spend the night is a must for lazy raccoons.
When it comes to food, raccoons need to have plenty of resources within a short distance. This is one of the overriding reasons that raccoons choose one location over another. They are omnivorous, so they can eat anything from insects, rodents, frogs, eggs and fish to fruit, berries, vegetables or whatever else they can find. They don’t care what kind of food is available — it just needs to be easy to find without traveling a long distance.
While appropriate protection, raccoon den options and food sources are important factors in determining a raccoon habitat, weather is not a consideration. Raccoons don’t mind cold or hot weather. Instead, yet again, they show their incredible ability to adjust to any environment, including the weather conditions.
If the weather gets cold in the wintertime, raccoons know how to protect themselves. To survive the coldest months, they can spend weeks sleeping in their dens without going out at all. During this period, raccoons even accumulate fat in their tails that, once wrapped around their bodies, will keep them warm enough to survive. At the same time, the colder the weather, the thicker their fur will become, offering additional protection.
On the other hand, when raccoons live in an area that’s not so cold, they don’t have to worry about those protections, and they continue their activities as usual during the winter. These guys are really flexible creatures.
Where Do Raccoons Live In Urban Areas?
All the above information about where raccoons live leads to questions about how close they can get to humans.
There is no doubt that the raccoon population in the U.S. is constantly growing, and this is so for several reasons. As farming started to expand in the 19th century, new readily available sources of food became easily accessible to raccoons. Hunting and trapping of raccoons, commonly practiced at one time, were restricted or even prohibited, creating favorable conditions for raccoons to expand their range. In many cases, human expansion caused the elimination of common raccoon predators. This alteration of the natural food chain resulted in the overpopulation of raccoons.
All these favorable conditions paved the way for what came next: raccoons making urban areas their habitat. The first official raccoon sighting in an urban area dates back to the 1920s in Cincinnati. Back then, the sighting made the news. Not so today. Nowadays, raccoons are a very familiar sight in urban developments.
If you put together everything you now know about how raccoons choose a habitat, then it’s not difficult to understand why urban areas are perfect places for raccoons to live. First, they can find plenty of food. Think about how much food they could collect just from your own trash can. This is only one of the many food options raccoons have in an urban area. Wherever they go in the city, they can easily find something to eat.
Not to mention that raccoon den spots are widely available in a metropolitan area. Raccoons can choose from barns, crawl spaces underneath houses, abandoned buildings and abandoned cars, or they can break right into a house and use the attic, chimney, garage or walls as a den. The options are practically limitless.
Another plus of urban areas is the lack of natural predators. While raccoons can feel at home in an urban environment, this is not the case for other wild animals. They prefer to keep their distance and don’t even think about coming closer just to hunt raccoons. Domestic animals, on the other hand, don’t pose any real threat to raccoons.
Overall, our cities make for good raccoon habitat. They are safe places for the critters, who can find plenty of food and easily claim a hole to spend the night.
That’s why, as the raccoon population keeps expanding, it is more and more common to find raccoons not only living close to urban areas but right in the middle of bustling metropolises.
How Can You Peacefully Cohabit With Raccoons?
That leads to our last consideration about where raccoons live. This is the piece of information that should interest you the most if you do not want to bump into problems with raccoons.
If you think about what makes a perfect raccoon habitat, you will quickly become aware that your own house could be at risk of a raccoon’s intrusion.
Raccoons need to feel safe from natural enemies like coyotes and foxes, and you’re less likely to have those on your property. Even if, for whatever reason, a raccoon feels threatened in your yard, your house has plenty of vertical structures he can climb to find refuge: trees, drainpipes, poles, even crawl spaces.
What about food? The human environment provides plenty of food sources. We already mentioned the trash can, but raccoons are also attracted to bird feeders, pet food left outside during the night, fruit trees, berry bushes, fish in your pond, grubs in the soil and so on. Anything edible around your house is like a neon sign to a raccoon.
The same is true when it comes to raccoon dens. Can a raccoon find a spot to spend the night on your property? The answer is probably yes. In fact, your house may have several ready-to-use dens, such as the crawl space underneath your house or deck, or even your woodpile.
What if a raccoon can find a way to enter your house, maybe from a poorly protected vent hole? What about your chimney or your garage? If a raccoon can find a way into your house, or if he is given an opportunity to create his own entry hole, then your house has become a dream den. Inside your attic, chimney or any other suitable spot, a raccoon will find perfect conditions for his den: dark, safe and warm enough in wintertime. Moreover, when it is time to give birth to baby raccoons, there are plenty of spots in your home where a mother raccoon can hide the litter to raise the newborn babies safely. What more could a raccoon family ask for?
What If Raccoons Live In My Neighborhood?
There is no doubt that your house is an extremely appealing place for a raccoon. You should take advantage of what you now know about raccoon habitat to keep raccoons away from your house and yard.
In many areas around the U.S., people have to learn to live with raccoons. But their presence should not become a cause of excessive distress. You just need to be cautious and know what to do to stay away from raccoon trouble. What you want to avoid at all costs is letting a raccoon make a den in your house or take up residence in your yard. The damage a raccoon can cause to your property can be pretty severe and the related risks to human health must be steered clear of.
Now that you know where raccoons live and the features of an ideal raccoon habitat, you need to make sure raccoons cannot find these conditions in your house or yard. You must take preventive steps to wildlife-proof your property.
Keeping raccoons away from your house is not difficult if you do it before the animals become too attached. It's not even super expensive. First, you have to eliminate any sources of food or water. Then leave the raccoons without any den options by securing your chimney, vent holes and any other possible access points to your house. If raccoons can’t find food or shelter on your property, it is game over. In no time, they will realize they cannot live there and move on. To assist you in protecting your house, we’ve prepared an easy-to-use guide with detailed instructions for keeping raccoons away from your property.
Raccoons are wild animals but their adaptability has made them brave enough to live next door to humans. For our part, we’ve done a good job of giving them many reasons to come too close. This cohabitation is so often the cause of problems, complaints and bitter feelings toward the animals. But if you understand raccoons, their behavior and the ideal raccoon habitat, it is entirely possible to enjoy their presence around your neighborhood and yet keep them far enough away to avoid complications.