Raccoon, Vancouver Island, BC
Raccoon, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Russ Porter

The common raccoon of the BC coast is probably best known for its black face mask. Raccoons are usually a grizzled grey in color, with a tail marked with black rings.

Their annual shedding of fur begins in spring and lasts about 3 months. They can look pretty haggard during this time! The raccoon has black eyes and round, short ears that are up to 6 cm long. The total length for adults averages 80 cm including the tail, with males being about one third larger than females.

Raccoons are able to live in a wide range of habitats. The only apparent requirements are a source of water, food, and a protected area to build dens. The best habitats are hardwood swamps, dark forests, fresh & saltwater marshes, farmland, and urban homes & attics. This highly adaptable animal is also a very common sight in the towns & cities of Vancouver Island.

The home range is the area used by an animal for food, water & shelter in its normal, day-to-day life. In rural agricultural areas of Vancouver Island, home ranges between 1 – 4 sq km are common. In open forests, raccoons have used areas as large as 25 sq km. Although home ranges seem to overlap, this causes  very little defensive reaction among these mammals.

Raccoon densities vary significantly with different types of habitat. Estimates of 5 – 10 raccoons per sq km are common in rural, agricultural areas. In urban areas, large numbers as high as 100 per sq km have been recorded. However, densities as low as 1 per sq km may occur in open, forest habitats.

On Vancouver Island, raccoons only den up in winter during extreme weather situations. In city areas, den up sites include residential chimneys, garages, attics, trees, & culverts. Adult males usually den alone, but family units often den together during their first winter. Communal dens containing as many as 23 raccoons have been reported, although groups of 4 – 5 are more common. In the countryside, den sites are hollow trees, stumps, old buildings, & barns.

Raccoons are omnivorous and will consume practically any food item, plant or animal. They prefer crayfish, fruits, and nuts. During the spring, small animals including invertebrates & insects, make up the major portion of their diet. While they prefer crayfish, raccoons will also eat muskrats, squirrels, waterfowl eggs, and freshwater clams. In summer, they favor fruits & nuts, and plants, including salmon berries, huckleberries, wild strawberries, as well as residential fruit trees that are full of fruit, like cherries and plum trees. They will also eat frogs, fish, turtles, beetle grubs, grasshoppers, earthworms, crickets, & snails during the summer.

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