During the winter months, many types of animals will enter a period of hibernation and continue to sleep for most of the winter. However, not all animals are the same. One question that many raccoon hunters still don’t know the answer to is Do raccoons hibernate in winter?
During colder months, raccoons conserve energy by staying in their dens for extended periods. They rely on accumulated body fat to sustain them through scarcity of food. During this hibernating time, their body temperature drops and their breathing slows down along with their heart rate.
The length of time an animal spends hibernating varies on the species, climate, and a variety of other factors. Raccoons survive in varied environments even during the winter months due to their ability to adapt to varying environmental circumstances and resourcefulness in obtaining shelter and nutrition. Discovering the truth about raccoon hibernation provides many useful hunting strategies for you.
Do Raccoon Hibernate In Winter?
No, raccoons do not hibernate in the traditional sense during winter. Raccoons do not have a hibernation induction trigger, however they undergo torpor, a stage of dormancy.
What Is Torpor?
Torpor is a temporary condition similar to hibernation but shorter in duration and not as intense. During torpor, an animal’s metabolic rate decreases significantly, and body temperatures drop, which leads to a state of dormancy. In addition, at this time, their insulin levels also increase to control blood sugar levels.
The animal’s basic processes, such as heart rate, respiration, and body temperature, are greatly lowered in this state. Torpor animals preserve energy by effectively “shutting down” to withstand conditions such as extreme cold and the consequential food scarcity.
Torpor is a flexible and reversible process, which means that animals in torpor can rouse themselves reasonably rapidly (albeit not as quickly as from sleep) and on a frequent basis. This permits the animals to remain attentive to environmental changes and adjust as needed.
Raccoons experience torpor to preserve energy when food gets scarce and temperatures decrease. During this stage, their metabolism slows, allowing them to survive without eating as frequently. Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores, and their diet can change from season to season, including fruits, insects, small animals, and even human food. Torpor helps them cope with the irregular availability of supplies throughout the winter months.
Where Do Raccoons Stay In Winter?
During the harsh winter months, raccoons often seek shelter in a safe place, especially in places where enough water and food can be found. They typically prefer abandoned burrows dug by other animals, thickets of brush piles, rocky ledges and crevices, or the hollows of ancient trees and logs.
Raccoons may create their homes in attics, derelict chimneys, abandoned buildings, old sheds, or under porches in urban and suburban areas. A good raccoon den provides both protection from the elements (cold, wind, rain, snow, etc.) and a secure haven from predators.
What do raccoons do in winter?
Torpor usually happens when the temperature drops below 15 degrees. Although they spend most of their time in the cave, when the temperature is less cold, the raccoon still goes out to look for food. They must rely on whatever they may find on a daily basis because they do not save food.
Raccoons’ versatility is partly due to their capacity to forage for food no matter where they are. During the winter, their food options become much more limited. However, raccoons have far more possibilities than other animals because they are omnivores. When they come out of torpor, they are able to survive on nuts, seeds, plant stems, berries, and leaves. You might even spot a raccoon out looking for food during the day before the temps dip too low.
How Do Raccoons Survive Winter?
Raccoons can survive the winter months using 5 different strategies, including:
- Growing thicker coats
- Build up body fat stores
- Finding warm dens
- Eating anything they can get their paws on
- Sharing space with other raccoons
Raccoons are genetically wired to detect symptoms of impending cold weather and begin preparing for it. They have one of the shortest lifespans among North American mammals, yet they are well adapted to frigid conditions. This is due to their various distinguishing characteristics that set them apart.
Grow A Thick Winter Coat
Raccoons who dwell in colder climates have thicker coats than those that reside in warmer regions. Raccoons often sleep curled up under thick, warm fur. This acts as insulation, helping to retain their body heat inside the fur where it belongs. The thick winter coat of a raccoon comes in handy here.
Build Up Fat Stores
Raccoons have a varied diet and are not picky eaters. In preparation for the winter, they eat anything they can get their hands on, gaining weight and fat and nearly tripling in size. In the summer and fall, they will eat as much as they can to build up their fat stores so that they are prepared for winter.This body fat comes in handy during the winter, when they are less active and can lose up to 15% of their body fat.
Finding Warm Dens
In the fall, raccoons begin looking for a suitable raccoon lair to call home during the chilly months. They find these den places by hunting for elevated spots with low exposure to severe winds and rains. Dens are frequently hollowed-out logs or tree cavities found near water sources. This includes tiny creeks or ponds that have abundant plant growth nearby to feed them even when food is short.
They Eat Anything They Can Get Their Paws On
Raccoons consume nearly anything! They eat human food scraps, small animals, nuts, berries, fruit, grasses, fish, insects, small mammals, and whatever else they can hunt or gather.
Raccoons can go to any length to eat and stay alive during the cold winter months. Raiding trash cans, taking cat or dog food left outside (even breaking into homes), eating crops such as corn, and so on are all examples. They have even been known to enter people’s homes and kitchens while no one is present.
Share Dens With Other Raccoons
Raccoons are typically solitary creatures, however in the winter they may frequently den up with other raccoons to exchange body heat and stay warm. This is especially true during exceptionally cold winters. Female raccoons often share dens with young raccoons, while adult males stay together.
Will Raccoons Mate During Winter?
Yes, raccoons often mate in the winter. During the cold months, they choose to den with other raccoons. This may be one reason raccoon mating season usually occurs from January to March.
The mating season of raccoons is determined by environmental temperature and food availability, but it normally happens early in the year. Raccoon women are pregnant for around nine weeks, therefore births normally take place in the spring. Mother raccoons often mate and get pregnant in their winter den The mother may relocate to an underground den once the cubs are born.