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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Fish & Wildlife > Wildlife Resources > Animals > Raccoon Raccoon

INTRODUCTIONraccoon baby

The raccoon (Procyon lotor) is a medium-sized mammal that is common throughout Indiana. Its black mask makes it easy to identify. Raccoons are found in both urban and rural areas. They are native only to North America


Raccoon characteristics:

  • Adults weigh 8-20 pounds, although weight can vary considerably based on environment. Males are usually heavier than females.
  • They have a distinct black mask around their eyes.
  • Their bushy tail measures 8-16 inches long, with alternating rings of light and dark fur.
  • Their coat is a mixture of grizzled gray, brown and black, but there can be large variations in color even among littermates.
  • Raccoon ears are slightly rounded with white fur on the edges.
  • Although not fast, they can reach speeds up to 15 mph.
  • Raccoons are good climbers and climb down trees headfirst.
  • Raccoons are nocturnal and usually spend daylight hours at rest.


raccoon and babyRaccoons occur statewide. They are most numerous where a mix of woodlands, cropland and shallow water are found. Northeastern Indiana, with its many glacial lakes, is where the raccoon population is the greatest. The farmland of central Indiana is also home to many raccoons. The heavily forested south-central hills and northwestern prairie regions are less attractive to raccoons. Under ideal conditions, raccoon levels can approach one per acre. Even in less favorable habitat, they still may occur at a rate of about one per 40 acres.


Most mating occurs in January or February, when the daylight increases. The male assumes no part in family life. Most raccoons are born in tree cavities. If den tree sites are not readily available, a female may use abandoned barn lofts, rock outcroppings, ground burrows or even attics and chimneys to give birth.

Litters are usually born in April or May and range in size from one to nine, although the average is four. By mid-June, most young raccoons accompany their mother on food searches and begin to learn survival skills.


Raccoons are opportunists, eating both plants and animals. Some common food sources are:

  • Frogs
  • Crayfish
  • Turtle and bird eggs
  • Small mammals
  • Sweet corn or field corn
  • Beechnuts and acorns

If water is nearby, the raccoon will appear to wash its food; however, the animal is actually kneading and tearing at the food, feeling for matter that should be rejected. Wetting its paws enhances the raccoon’s touch. If water is not nearby, the raccoon will forego this ritual.

Management and control

In the 1920s, raccoon coats were fashionable. Pelt prices soared and raccoon numbers crashed. This decline resulted in the purchase of raccoons by the Indiana Department of Conservation and private clubs for restocking. Breeding stock was purchased from other states, and raccoons were raised for release. In the late 1940s and through the 1950s, raccoon numbers increased throughout the Midwest, even in areas where stocking had not been attempted. In spite of isolated disease outbreaks—primarily canine distemper—a high raccoon population has been maintained since the 1960s. The raccoon harvest is monitored annually, and surveys show statewide abundance. Evidence gathered concerning raccoons indicates this mammal had found its niche in our modern environment and is here to stay.

Living with raccoons

Raccoons can often cause problems for landowners. Here are some tips for preventing raccoons around your home or garden:

  • For gardens, string a single strand of electric fence 8 inches above the ground around the perimeter of the garden. Place a radio under a garbage can and turn it on overnight. The sound may discourage raccoons from approaching.
  • Keep bird feeders and garbage cans inside at night. Place a small dish of ammonia in the bottom of an empty garbage can to help discourage them.
  • Resident landowners and tenants can live-trap a raccoon that is causing damage on their own property without a permit from the DNR. The raccoon must be euthanized or released within the county of capture on property in which you have permission to do so. In order to prevent the spread of disease, the DNR encourages homeowners to safely and humanely euthanize the raccoons, if possible. Live-traps can be purchased from hardware stores and garden centers. If you do not want to trap the raccoon yourself, contact a licensed nuisance wild animal control operator.
  • Occasionally, raccoons may enter a house through a pet door. If you have a raccoon in the house, close all doors that provide access to other parts of the house. Open windows and doors to the outside so the animal can exit quietly on its own. Wait for the animal to escape, then close all openings, including the pet door, to prevent the raccoon from returning.
  • If the raccoon is already in your chimney or attic, place bright lights or a pan of ammonia in the attic to encourage the raccoon(s) to leave. If the mother has had her young in your chimney already, contact a licensed nuisance wild animal control operator for professional assistance. Once the raccoon leaves the chimney, install a chimney cap. Also, identify and seal other attic entries after evicting the raccoon.
  • Trim overhanging tree limbs to prevent easy access to your roof and attic.

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