As of February 2024, the raccoon population in the United States is around 2 million to 5 million estimated, but only 1 million live in North Carolina. If they don’t live short, their population will double, which can cause problems for humans because when we see raccoons, we often think about how to trap or repel them. Usually, too many factors reduce the lifespan of raccoons, like human hunting, predatory attacks, or diseases that finish the entire lifespan of raccoons. Although raccoons can live in captivity for up to 20 years, in the wild their lifespan is only 2 to 3 years. The major sources of raccoons’ short lifespan are hunting and road accidents.
Today, we’ll try to find out the answer to this question, “Why do raccoons live so short?” Let’s take a look at this!
Why Do Raccoons Live So Short?
Usually, they face many threats within their living environment that reduce their lifespan. Raccoons are intelligent creatures with omnivorous eating habits. They display opportunistic behavior, meaning they don’t have a specific habitat and will venture anywhere that presents food sources.
During their search, these resourceful mammals often meet with other wild animals, such as coyotes, bobcats, wild dogs, and even cougars, which can lead to fights. After these fights, they’re lying on the ground because they are not as powerful as the above animals.
They often emerge near human settlements and occasionally establish their dens. However, they tend to stay in one place and relocate to the next when another food source becomes available. Unfortunately, this brings them face to face with several threats, such as human hunting, trapping, and vehicle-related injuries.
In February 2023, a raccoon suddenly appeared on the road in Toronto. Meanwhile, a woman driving a car tried to avoid the raccoon but ended up flipping her car after being hit by a van that was already parked on the road.
There are too many examples like this when raccoons cross the road and are either hit by a vehicle or cause a vehicle to collide with another while trying to save the raccoons.
However, there is no scientific research that suggests why raccoons live for such a short period.
How long do raccoons live in captivity?
Raccoons typically live in captivity for up to 20 years. On the other hand, their life in the wild lasts only 2 to 3 years, which is significantly shorter than their life expectancy in captivity. This is because most animals that are kept in captivity tend to live longer than their expected lifespan. For instance, wild ferrets live for 5 to 6 years, and captive ferrets can live up to 10 years.
The oldest raccoon ever recorded was 19 years old. In March 2023, the oldest raccoon named ‘Bert‘ died at the age of 13 at Northumberland Zoo. Bert was born in 2010 and was later brought to the zoo with the help of his owner, who believed that keeping raccoons as pets was not a good idea.
Their breeding season typically occurs during the winter season which can last until June. Female raccoons usually mate only once a year and their litter size typically consists of 3 to 4 cubs. Generally, baby raccoons are born in May after a gestational period of 63 days.
A rare white-brown raccoon was born last year in Xuzhou Jiudingshan Wildlife Park in China. This raccoon is almost the same as other raccoons except for the color.
When cubs are born, they are totally blind, and their eyes open after 3 to 4 weeks. After 2 to 3 months of birth, they can explore their dens, and they can’t go outside as they are too little. Baby raccoons generally stay with their mother for up to one year. After 1 year of birth, they’re fully dependent and can make their own dens or find food for themselves.
Diseases That Affect the Lifespan of Raccoons:
Several diseases can affect the lifespan of raccoons:
Rabies: This disease is often transmitted by raccoons, making them one of the most common carriers. Rabid raccoons typically live 1 to 3 days. Generally, other animals can also infected by this virus, but raccoons are a major source of this.
Canine Distemper: This type of infection usually affects foxes and unvaccinated dogs. If a raccoon is infected with this virus, its chances of survival are 50 percent.
Generally, a large number of raccoons die from attacks by other animals and road accidents, but only a few die from diseases. Some dogs are specifically bred for raccoon hunting & these types of dogs are called coonhound dogs. Typically, these dogs do not kill raccoons. Instead, they catch them & their owners hold them back from their dogs.
Why Do Raccoons Live So Short? Final Thoughts
So, at last, there is no strong evidence on raccoons’ anatomy that explains why raccoons live short. Some factors can reduce the lifespan of raccoons in the wild. However, this does not necessarily mean that captive raccoons will live longer as expected. They can be infected with various viruses, such as rabies, which can kill the infected raccoon within three days.
What is the average lifespan of a raccoon?
The average lifespan of a wild raccoon is typically around 2 to 3 years. However, raccoons in captivity may live longer, sometimes reaching up to 20 years or more.
Why do raccoons have such a short lifespan?
Usually, raccoons do not have a short lifespan. However, factors including predators, diseases, environmental threats, and human-related factors such as vehicle collisions and habitat destruction can reduce the lifespan.
Do raccoons die of old age?
Raccoons can pass away due to old age, but it is not a typical occurrence in the wild as they have to overcome various challenges throughout their lifespan. Most raccoons succumb to predation, diseases, or accidents before reaching old age.
How does habitat loss affect raccoon lifespan?
Habitat loss due to urbanization and deforestation restricts raccoon movement, reduces available food resources, and increases the risk of encounters with humans and vehicles. In this way, their lifespan become reduce.
Are there any natural predators of raccoons?
Yes, raccoons have several natural predators, including coyotes, bobcats, birds like owls and eagles, and large snakes.