Breeding Cycle of Raccoons

Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Raccoons are carnivorous mammals with omnivore tendencies. While they prefer meat, raccoons have a wide diet that includes berries, grasses, grains and crawfish. Nursing mothers, in particular, have a voracious appetite, often spending nights and days gathering food. For this reason, although raccoons are generally nocturnal, it isn't unusual to see healthy raccoons during the day.

Life Cycle

Breeding generally occurs in late winter. If the female is not bred during this time, she will come into estrus again in four months and can be bred at that time, giving birth to babies later in the summer. Most cubs, however, are born in April and May. The average length of pregnancy for a female raccoon is 63 days. The mother typically has between one and seven cubs at a time, with an average litter of four. The cubs are born with fur and are mobile, although their legs cannot support them, so they scoot along on their stomachs for the first few weeks.

Males

Males are capable of breeding with females in the first spring after they are born -- however, due to the presence of older, more mature males, they typically do not participate in this first breeding season. After breeding with females, the male raccoon typically returns to his den for the remainder of the cold weather. While raccoons do not hibernate, they can spend long periods of time in their den without eating during the winter. Male raccoons do not couple with females thoughout the gestation period, and they have nothing to do with raising the cubs.

Females

Females are typically ready to breed when they are about 10 months old. After breeding, they, like male raccoons, typically return to their dens for the remainder of winter. After giving birth, the mother spends most of her time gathering food for herself to keep her offspring nourished. She will keep the cubs in one spot for the first eight weeks. After eight to nine weeks, the cubs are mobile enough to travel with their mother.

Young

At birth, raccoons are between 3 and 5 ounces, their ears are tightly folded against their head and their eyes are closed. After about three weeks, they begin to open their eyes and their ears become erect. By the time the cubs are six weeks old they can typically run and climb proficiently. At eight weeks, they leave the nest with their mother and are eating solid food. By the time they are four months old, the raccoon cubs are typically weaned from their mother, although the family typically stays together well into the fall, and in many cases until the following breeding season.

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images