Henry County Animal Care & Control
Wild Animals: Raccoons
The raccoon “Procyon lotor” is a stocky mammal up to three feet in length and weighing between 8-20 pounds. Distinctive markings include it’s “bandit’s mask” - a black mask over the eyes, and a heavily furred tail with black rings. Fur color can vary from gray to black, although a somewhat yellow, "tawny" color are common in some areas. Raccoons have pointy, triangular ears and hand-like front paws. Breeding peaks in February and March, but can occur at any time from December to June. Litters of 1-7 "kits" are born after about 63 days. Young are weaned after 10-12 weeks, but can remain with the female as a family unit for up to one year.
Raccoons are one of the most adaptable mammals in the United States and are found throughout Georgia in rural, suburban, and urban landscapes. They are typically found in habitats closely associated with water, including coastal marshes, swamps, rivers, lakes and creeks. They also tend to favor habitats where mature hardwood trees are available. They typically den in hollow trees, ground burrows, or brush piles, but will readily use human structures like a barn, an attic, garage or an abandoned building.
Raccoons are active throughout the year in Georgia, but may remain in their dens during extreme winter weather. They are considered nocturnal, but will readily forage during the day when local conditions allow. Raccoons are omnivorous and opportunistic. They feed on a variety of things including berries, fruits, seeds, eggs, insects, fish and frogs.
Raccoons are extremely smart with excellent memories. The unique shape of their paws make them function almost like human hands! They can easily open closed containers, garbage can lids and have even been known to open locked gates and screened door latches!
As with all wildlife, raccoons should not be approached or handled by humans. One reason for leaving raccoons alone is their susceptibility to numerous diseases including canine distemper and parvovirus, in addition to diseases humans can get from them - such as rabies and raccoon roundworms. Even though raccoons may be carriers of rabies, it is not true that all raccoons have rabies. Typically, rabid raccoons will exhibit symptoms such aimless wandering and lack of coordination, or they will exhibit aggressive behavior that can include attacks and self-mutilation.
Nuisance raccoons cause health concerns for humans and their pets. Most diseases are transferred only through direct contact. Simply being near a raccoon is NOT considered a risk. Pets should receive regular vaccinations, especially an annual Rabies vaccine, from your veterinarian to reduce risk. Report any direct contact with a raccoon by you or your pets to the Henry County Animal Control Department at (770) 288-7387.
Because of their adaptability to different habitats and continued development of formerly wild areas, raccoons often become a nuisance in urban and suburban areas, around homes and in recreation areas. One of the most common conflicts between raccoons and humans occurs when household pets are fed outside. Raccoons are attracted to pet foods and can often congregate in large numbers to take advantage of the free buffet! Other raccoon / human conflicts occur when raccoons den in buildings, raid gardens, harass backyard chicken coops or visit garbage cans in search of food. Given raccoons adaptability to different food sources and their dexterity, eliminating outside food sources can be challenging.
Nuisance problems are best dealt with by changing or removing food sources, blocking their entry from man-made structures and making sure garbage containers have tightly fitted lids.