Young raccoons are very playful animals. I once snuck up on a pair of baby raccoons wrestling & tumbling at the edge of a forest.
At first I just heard the alarm calls of some song sparrows and wanted to find out what was happening in the bushes.
It was so magical & hilarious to see those two little fur-balls tumble into view and realize they were the source of the sparrow’s frustration.
Raccoons are a common animal often seen moving around the neighborhood at dusk or night-time, especially when the young are still in their early stages of development.
Very often you’ll see a mom with several younglings following her around, which might lead you to wonder about when do raccoons have their babies?
Raccoons have babies at different times of the year depending on the climate. Northern raccoons have their babies between the months of January through March, while southern ones can have them between April through July. Female raccoons typically have one litter a year but can have a second if the first ones die.
So if you’re wondering when is the best time to encounter raccoon babies, you should be prepared during late winter and early spring.
However, baby raccoons are also kept safe in the den for about six weeks after birth so you’re actually more likely to see the growing family as the babies get a little bit older and begin moving around with mom during their juvenile phase.
How Do You Know When A Raccoon Has Had Babies?
Overall, the more skilled you get with basic wildlife tracking skills, the easier it will be to know when raccoon babies are being born.
It’s actually fairly simple… there are several easily observable clues that anyone can notice about raccoons to help you narrow down when they’re being born in your local area.
The first thing to check is the time of the year.
Raccoons won’t have babies in late summer, fall or early winter months, so you can rule those out right off the bat.
Next – Consider the relative harshness of your local environment. How cold are your winters and how early does the season shift compared to other places?
As a general rule, raccoons in the north tend to be born earlier than raccoons in the south. This ensures the babies have enough time to develop and get strong before the following winter.
If you’re able to check with local wildlife experts, they often have excellent insights or even first hand experience of when raccoons are typically born each year in your particular area.
The next thing you want to do is understand a little bit about where raccoons make their dens, since that’s where the babies will actually be born and stay during the first 6 weeks of their life.
If you can find an active raccoon den, it means you’re really hot on the trail.
Where Do Raccoons Make Their Dens?
Raccoons need a secure den to keep their babies safe from possible dangers. Not only does it have to be secure, but it also must be dark and warm for the health of the litter.
Dark to resemble the time of day they usually hunt for food, and warm to keep the babies from freezing during the coldest conditions.
Raccoons generally live in heavily wooded areas that have access to food, water, and shelter from the elements.
They like big old growth trees and often will make their dens in the hollows when these dry and protected spots are available.
One of the best ways to identify raccoon habitat is by studying what raccoons eat in your area, and then look for accessible den locations nearby.
However, raccoons are also extremely adaptable so it’s not uncommon to find them using any suitable covered location like under rocks or even inside human structures.
The most common places raccoons will make their dens in our homes are:
- Under your porch
These human shelters are actually some of the most common places to find raccoon babies simply because you’re more likely to spot the signs around your home than out in the forest.
Raccoon claws and teeth are perfect for digging or breaking into walls to get into our homes. It’s quiet, dark, and private from the outside world.
The common theme of all raccoon dens is safety from outside elements. Staying in your home will protect them from potential predators, and secure the life expectancy of the raccoon’s litter.
This is the end goal for any female raccoon who gives birth.
What Behaviors Are Associated With Raccoon Dens?
If you suspect an area is being actively used as a den, the best thing to do is watch for behavioral signs.
Even if a location is ideal for raccoons, it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily using it right now, so you still need to observe and gather a bit more information.
One thing to realize is not all raccoon dens are used for birthing young. Winter dens are sometimes used as a shared warm spot by multiple adults. These winter dens often have obvious latrines nearby.
Raccoons don’t co-parent, so only the mothers care and raise their young.
Therefore if you spot a single, hefty looking raccoon during springtime, this is a much better indicator you may be seeing some babies soon.
Even a thinner mama raccoon walking around repeatedly in the same area night after night can be a good sign.
If the babies are nearby, she’ll be more hesitant to leave the area, so this is when you’re most likely to have repeated encounters.
Repeated encounters day after day or night after night can be a good sign there’s an active den nearby.
The next thing you might notice is the actual sound of raccoon babies in your attic or under your porch.
Unfortunately, one effect of human settlements is that our homes create perfect opportunities for raccoons to den up, which can create tension when human & animal worlds collide.
Raccoons have litters of 2-8 babies. Babies are quite vocal and chirp a bit like birds. This sound may throw you off initially, but their constant noise will assure you that you do indeed have baby raccoons nearby.
The mama raccoon will be patrolling close by to check on her babies.
Thirdly, if you suspect you have raccoons living inside your attic, listen for the mom moving around in your house.
Mother raccoons will be very active as she goes in and out of your house to find food and check on her babies.
She won’t be able to stop the sounds she makes due to her sharp claws digging into beams and insulation. She won’t make any vocal sounds unless you come face-to-face, then she will possibly hiss.
Lastly, is to check for burrowing debris or sounds.
A mama raccoon will be coming and going while she feeds herself and then her babies. She will often leave sticks and leaves around the entry point and will make scratching noises as she walks around. As babies get bigger, they will start burrowing around your house as well.
How Long Do Baby Raccoons Take to Become Independent?
Once a raccoon has had babies, it can take up to 3 months for the babies to start becoming independent from their mother.
The babies often stay hidden in the den’s insulation while their mother forages for food. She will need to check on them often, both for safety as well as feeding schedules.
Given that baby raccoons are so dependent on their mother, she has to make sure their den is safe from predators and weather. They don’t even open their eyes for about 21 days.
Baby raccoons are notorious for being loud. They have no fear of the outside world yet and often will cry for their mother’s attention or food.
Babies will fully separate from their mother after one year. They are completely independent on finding food and fending for themselves at this point, and will even start looking for mates.
Raccoons can live in loose-knit groups of 4-5 other raccoons, so they do not necessarily live completely on their own.
What Do You Do If You Have Baby Raccoons In Your House?
In an ideal world, raccoons would have plenty of wild den opportunities to keep them happy and living peacefully around the edges of human society.
However, it does happen sometimes that raccoons can end up inside your home.
If this happens, your first course of action should be to call a professional. They’re trained in handling raccoons safely and humanely when removing them from homes.
These professionals will also help keep your house damage to a minimum. Whereas, if you try to do it yourself you could hurt yourself, the raccoons or your house.
Whatever you do, don’t disturb the nest! Raccoons can sometimes carry rabies, including babies. So, don’t let yourself get bitten by trying to mess with the nest.
If the mama raccoon is present, she will do all she can to protect her babies. She will most likely scratch or bite you if you try to pick her or her babies up to move them out of your house.
You also don’t want to separate the babies from their mother while they are still small.
They are completely dependent on her, and can potentially die without her. Not to mention the mother’s fear for her babies when she comes back and sees that they are gone.
The mama may tear up your house searching for them, causing more damage to your home.
Baby raccoons can start to burrow themselves after 3 months, and may even leave your home around that time.
The problem is they might now see your house as a great nesting place for future generations.
The mama raccoon can come back next year with her new litter to do the process all over again.
Her babies can also bring their babies and so on, so you’ll want to take steps to prevent future issues and keep raccoons out of your home.
How Do You Keep Raccoons Away?
Many people find raccoons extremely cute, but if you ever find them living in your home or shed, you still probably don’t want to encourage this behavior.
It can lead to problems with your home, and it’s actually much healthier for raccoon populations to depend on natural shelters.
This process is fairly simple once the raccoons are moved out. There are three steps you can take to keep raccoons away from your home:
- Find and repair damage to your home
- Remove attractive items (trash, water, shelter)
- Raccoon Repellants
1. First, find and repair any damage done to your home.
This could be holes dug under your shed or porch. Or holes in your walls and dug out insulation to get into your garage or attic.
This damage will also help to confirm that you had raccoons in your home or yard if you aren’t yet sure. The type of damage will help you decide on the best way to keep raccoons out.
You’ll want to repair the damage properly, remembering that raccoons are incredibly smart & crafty.
Half finished jobs won’t keep them out, so just make sure you do a good job sealing up the holes and keep your home raccoon proof in the future.
2. Next, keep any attractive items out of reach of raccoons.
Garbage bags and food are big attractors for raccoons, who will break open or eat these items.
The more you can do to prevent raccoons from being rewarded with food and interesting smells to investigate, the less likely they will be to cause problems around your home.
If you notice raccoons are getting into your garbage or compost, you probably want to start taking steps to prevent this.
You might think it’s harmless for raccoons to have your leftovers, but it actually trains their behavior to be more dependant on humans, and therefore more likely to try and get into your home.
City raccoons tend to have a higher population density because there’s so many scraps left around by humans.
Higher population density means there’s higher demand for dens to have babies, which means they’re more likely to break into human structures.
Higher population density can also lead to health problems and more stressful lifestyles for raccoons. It’s more humane to do our best to have the least impact on them as possible.
3. Natural Repellents
If you do a good job with those first 2 steps, you really shouldn’t have any need for this final step.
Raccoons are smart enough to know when they’ve been beat so if you simply eliminate the rewards of being close to your home, they’ll eventually stop snooping around so much and move on.
However, if you really need something extra there are natural repellents you can make to help support those first steps and make things even less attractive for raccoons.
You can simply spread cayenne pepper around the area you don’t want raccoons to go through. You may need to spread it often if it rains, but it will work.
You can also make stronger liquid blends of spicy peppers that give off smells to keep animals away.
You would boil the ingredients and strain it before spraying it around your house or garden to keep them away. It is natural as well as powerful.
In most cases this third step is completely unnecessary, and a lot more work than it’s worth.
Raccoons are highly intelligent animals that often live at the edge of human environments. They’re simply trying to live their lives in peace like the rest of us.
If we stay respectful and curious, they can open our eyes to an entire world of life happening right at the edges of our own backyards & neighborhoods.
Observing your local raccoons is a great way to get inspired about nature both for adults & children.
There is a deep joy inherent to watching a mom & her baby raccoons happily exploring their new world.
But it’s also important to take personal responsibility for the impact we humans can have on these fascinating animals.
Our homes, environment & how we manage our waste can all have dramatic consequences for the long term behavior & health & stress levels for local raccoons.
Keep learning and always be mindful of your impact so humans and raccoons can live in harmony.
Do this and someday you too might get to witness baby raccoons tumbling and wrestling in the bushes!