Raccoons, are one species that never cease to amaze. Be it finding them with an unscrewed jar eating the contents, browsing through a cupboard or ransacking a garbage container. They have a habit of turning up in the most curious of places, and they are rarely boring to watch. But if you think the adults are cute, the babies are even cuter!
Here are some fun baby raccoon facts that you might not know, as well as answers to some of the most frequently asked questions!
8 Fun Baby Raccoon Facts
Baby Raccoons Don’t Have Dark Masks
Baby raccoons have very little fur. The hair they do have, is thin and short, with notes of grey and brown barely camouflaging their pink skin. Their markings, including their masks, are very faint or absent for the first few weeks of their life. Markings may begin to show faintly after a few days, particularly the tail rings, but it is around the 10 week mark that the mask will start to appear more clearly around the eyes.
The mask can be light at first, but will darken over time as they mature. There are over 20 subspecies of racoon, some of which – such as the torchkey raccoon – don’t develop a mask at all, others that have black eyes rather than a full mask. However most, even those with blonde or white hair, develop a mask.
The masks that raccoons develop are not just for show, they do serve a purpose. Notably, they help to reduce glare, improving a raccoon’s vision, particularly at night.
Baby Raccoons Are Called Kits
A baby raccoon is called a kit, and siblings are born together in a litter. When they mature, males are called boars and females are called sows.
Collectively, a group of raccoons are called a ‘nursery’ or a ‘gaze’. Less commonly they are also sometimes called a ‘mask’ or a ‘committee’. There isn’t a collective noun specifically for baby raccoon kits, but a nursery of raccoons is quite fitting due to their playful, mischievous and curious nature.
New Born Kits Are Completely Dependant On Their Mother
During the first two to three weeks of their lives, baby raccoons don’t have the strength in their limbs to get around unaided, and they are also blind. They are completely dependant on their mothers to feed them milk, protect and nurture them through the first few weeks. If anything happens to the mother, the kits are extremely vulnerable and would have no chance to make it on their own.
Mothers will leave the kits in their nest to forage through the day and that is when they are most at risk. While racoons are usually nocturnal, they often adjust their feeding schedule when rearing their young.
Once they are able to move and see, the mother will start to teach them the skills they need to survive, but kits may stay with their mothers for about 8-9 months before being fully able to fend for themselves. However, they are fully weaned by around 2-3 months.
Baby Raccoons Are Not Nocturnal
Raccoons are nocturnal animals (mostly active at night) , sometimes crepuscular (active mostly at dawn and dusk), but when they are born, raccoon kits are mostly active during the day. They are not born nocturnal and this is a trait that develops over time as they mature.
Baby Raccoons Have Fingers But No Opposable Thumbs
Baby raccoons develop very dexterous front paws with five fingers but they don’t have opposable thumbs, so can’t grab objects the way the we humans can. They need to use both hands together to grip and manipulate objects securely, though they can touch the 1st and 5th finger together across the palm. They also develop very sensitive whiskers on their front paws. These are called vibrissae and extend just beyond the raccoons front claws. They develop these before they come of age.
They use their hands to grasp objects, climb trees, and open food containers. Raccoons are very good climbers and can easily scale fences and trees. They are also strong swimmers and can swim long distances.
Raccoons develop incredibly sensitive hands, in fact it is the sense of touch in their paws, that utilizes around two thirds of the brain area associated with sensory information. They are even known to dip their food in water to improve their sense of touch when eating.
Raccoon Kits Are Very Smart
Baby raccoons have been know to complete the most curious tasks, often leaving people scratching their heads wondering how on earth they managed that. They can develop the ability to unscrew jars, undo locks and even untie knots. Baby kits grow into very curious and intelligent animals.
Many believe that raccoons are in the same category as dolphins and whales in terms of intelligence. They often score nearly as high as monkeys in some intelligence tests, displaying reasoning and problem solving skills on the same level as primates. They have an incredible amount of cortical neurons, much more than dogs or cats. This allows them to learn and to develop a great memory.
Baby Kits Follow Their Mother In A Line
While you may be more familiar with seeing ducklings or baby chicks following their mother in a straight line, baby raccoon kits do this too! In what would be akin to our first few days at kindergarten, baby kits are led out of their den at around 8 to 10 weeks old to being to learn about the world around them and how to fend for themselves. When the mother starts to move, the baby kits line up and follow behind.
They start crawling around 4 weeks, are not strong enough to leave their den until around 8 weeks. They will stay with their mothers until around 8 months of age to a year, having learned the skills to be independent in that time.
Males Mature Slower Than Females
Female kits mature quicker than males, and will reach sexual maturity at an earlier age. A female kit will reach sexual maturity at around a year, while males can take up to two years mature. When it does come time to leave home, young males will often band together at first before becoming more solitary.
Despite reaching maturity sooner than males, females may often stay with their mothers for longer.
Baby Raccoon FAQS
How many raccoons are born in a litter?
Raccoons typically have two to five young in a litter, but up to eight young have been recorded. Most females have their first litter when they are between one and two years old. Raccoons give birth between late spring and early summer. The gestation period is about 65 days.
What do baby raccoons eat?
For the first few weeks of their life, baby raccoons are dependant on their mothers milk. From around 6 weeks, they are introduced to the same omnivorous diet as their mother. They are generally introduced to a diet including insects, nuts, fish, berries, and frogs. This does differ depending on the area they live and the food that is available.
Raccoons that live in urban areas will often ransack bins and food sources that rural animals don’t have the same access to. Some baby raccoons are even known to eat small mammals, such as mice.
How long do baby raccoons stay with their mother?
Baby raccoons typically stay with their mother for eight months to a year before they go off on their own. During this time, the mother will teach them how to find food and how to avoid predators.
How quick do baby raccoons grow?
At birth, raccoon kits average around 85 grams to around 142 grams in weight, and 4 to 6 inches long (excluding the tail). By week six, they can grow to around 550 grams and 12-14 inches long.
Raccoons are very quick to grow. They typically double their size in the first month and reach their adult weight usually before the 4 month mark.
Where do baby raccoons live?
Most baby raccoons live in dens that are enclosed within areas such as hollow trees and logs. They build their nests sometimes in the forks of branches or in holes in the trunk. Urban raccoons are known to make use of lots, spaces underneath decking, and outbuildings to build their dens.
What is the life expectancy of a raccoon?
The average lifespan of a raccoon in the wild is about two to three years, but they can live up to 20 years in captivity. Raccoons are one of the most common animals found in zoos.
Do baby raccoons carry rabies?
Baby raccoons do not carry rabies as commonly as adults, but they can still be infected. Adults can carry the disease without showing any signs, and can pass this onto their offspring. Rabies is a deadly virus that affects the brain and nervous system. It is usually spread through the bite of an infected animal.
Raccoons can become infected with rabies when they come into contact with rabid animals, such as skunks or bats. It is important to get your pet vaccinated against rabies and to avoid contact with wild raccoons.
What diseases can baby raccoons carry?
Baby raccoons can carry a variety of diseases, including rabies, distemper, and leptospirosis. Distemper is a viral disease that can cause fever, coughing, and diarrhea. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can cause fever, headache, muscle pain, and vomiting. It is important to avoid contact with wild raccoons.