What Does A Raccoon Nest Look Like?

Are raccoons making a mess in your yard and now you’re worried they have set up home nearby? The problem is you don’t know where raccoons live. So what does a raccoon nest look like?

Raccoons don’t build nests, instead, they move into existing spaces that offer them cover. Typical raccoon dens in urban areas include porches, sheds, and attics. Raccoons may also live on the crevices of trees, rocks, and logs. It’s common for raccoons to use nests and burrows abandoned by other animals such as foxes and large birds.

If you want to learn more about raccoon dens then keep reading. This guide will help you learn the common places where raccoons will set up home. You’ll also learn about the signs of a raccoon in your area.

Sound good? Then let’s get started.

Where do Raccoons build nests?

Raccoons are opportunistic animals that will make the best of their environment.

Although as a species they are quite lazy and won’t go out of their way to create any type of shelter for themselves.

What raccoons do is search out for small spaces that offer them cover, shelter and warmth. Plus if there is a close food source nearby then they are on to a winner.

Raccoons live in both urban and rural areas, as they realised that living near humans offers a lot of benefits.

Let’s look at the most common places that raccoons build their nests and how they do it.

1. Attics & Chimneys

Attics and chimneys are ideal dens for Raccoons. The home walls provide an excellent shelter from the outside elements.

As chimneys and attics are high in the home they benefit from the heat rising. This makes it extremely warm and even better for raising baby raccoons.

An added benefit for raccoons is that the attic is full of insulation which helps to make a soft area to rest and keep warm.

Attics are dark and undisturbed during the daytime hours when the raccoons like to rest. They can then easily come and go as they please during the night.

Raccoons are very skilled climbers and use tress to get higher up. They then find access to chimneys and attics through vents or cracks in roofs or stonework.

2. Decking & Crawlspace

If a raccoon can’t get into the attic of a home, it will likely take the next best offer. Underneath decking, porches and crawlspace are a good alternatives.

Raccoons can easily get into these spaces by creating entrances by digging slightly into the surrounding soil.

Decking and crawlspace provide all the benefits of shelter with added heat from the home. Although the raccoons may be slightly disturbed by human activity overhead. This is often a trade-off for finding protection and shelter.

Plus raccoons soon learn that humans usually stay away, and are not much of a threat.

3. Sheds

Sheds are another area that raccoons may look to live in. They are close to the food sources near homes, and generally undisturbed shelters.

Raccoons may live in the shed itself or underneath it. If the raccoons are in the shed itself, it may cause damage to anything stored inside. Material such as cardboard boxes can be destroyed to create some insulation for warmth.

Raccoons may be able to gain access to sheds through poorly maintained walls or doors. Or if they are underneath they will simply be able to dig a shallow burrow into the foundations.

4. Trees

One natural denning area for raccoons is the hollowed-out area of a tree. You may even see a raccoon poking their head out of a little den they have created.

Raccoons can also use fallen trees or hollowed-out logs that they find in forested areas.

Trees offer raccoons cover from the weather. It also offers protection from predators, especially if the hollow is slightly higher up. Trees can also be an excellent source of food such as fruits and nuts.

Small hollows will only fit one raccoon and large hollows can become a home for a mother and her kits.

5. Abandoned Burrows

Raccoons are opportunistic in every way, and this includes finding a place to den. They will seek out abandoned burrows that have been left by other larger animals. Raccoons seem to make good use of old fox and skunk burrows. These are just the perfect size to fit a few raccoons.

Raccoons are able to dig a small amount but this skill is mainly used for uncovering grubs from the soil. Raccoons don’t have the skills that burrowing animals do. So they let them do all the hard work, and when they are finished using them, the raccoons take over.

These burrows offer excellent cover and warmth for the raccoons to rest and raise babies.

6. Abandoned Bird Nests

You already know that raccoons are excellent climbers and will spend a lot of time in trees. If they come across a large abandoned bird’s nest, they will take over it themselves.

These are usually old nests of large birds of prey such as owls or hawks. However, some birds such as crows can build large nests which accommodate a single raccoon.

These nests are high up which provides the raccoons’ protection from non-climbing predators. The branches and vegetation of the tree can also provide some cover, especially in a dense forest area. Raccoons can generally be left undisturbed to rest during the day in a bird’s nest.

Birds are very skilled at creating nests that are strong and warm. Raccoons benefit from the solid construction when they take over these nests.

7. Large Rocks

Often in forest areas, there are rocky areas that have small crevices. Raccoons will utilize these small cave-like structures to take shelter.

These rocky areas are like ready-made homes for raccoons. Rocks are sturdy and can’t be easily damaged by strong winds or heavy rain.

8. Leaf Piles

If a raccoon is in need of a resting place, but can’t find anywhere suitable, they may settle for a leaf pile.

A large pile of leaves may not seem appealing, but for a raccoon, it offers temporary shelter and warmth.

The fact that leaves have collected in the areas usually means it’s protected from strong winds and mostly undisturbed.

Raccoons won’t make a permanent shelter from leaf piles. But, they are a great stop measure when they are between longer-term sheltering areas.

This isn’t a complete list of all the places that raccoons may live. They will pretty much set up wherever they can get shelter and hunker down for a few days.

Raccoons will often only live in a den for a few days and then move on to somewhere new. Although most raccoons are likely to come and replace them if it’s a good place to keep safe and get food.

9 Signs of Raccoons near Your Home

Now you know where raccoons live, how do you know if they have a nest nearby?

Raccoons can go undetected for a while as they mostly come out at night. Yet, they soon start to leave signs that they are around.

If you don’t feel like playing detective, then using a trail cam is the best way to catch the raccoons in the act. This is the one I recommend.

Let’s look at the tell-tale signs that you have a raccoon living nearby.

1. Paw Prints

Raccoon pawprint in the snow (Source: flickr)

Raccoons have quite distinctive paw prints as they look like tiny little handprints. That’s because raccoons have thumbs and these help you to tell them apart from other pests in your yard.

Pawprints can be easy to see on wet soil or snow in the wintertime.

2. Scat

Raccoon poop is a tell-tale giveaway that they have a home nearby. In fact, raccoons use the same area again and again, known as a latrine. These areas often become communal toilets for many raccoons.

That means these areas fill up with large piles of raccoon poop. These look like sausage shapes with blunt ends and sometimes undigested foods.

Raccoon scat is dangerous to have in your yard and should be dealt with appropriately. Check out my guide on how to deal with any raccoon poop you find in your yard.

3. Rub marks

Raccoons will often use the same paths and trails regularly. They will even try to mark these as their own territory. They do this by rubbing their anus, groins, and tummy on surfaces they pass.

This can leave rub marks or even tell-tale paw prints around access to areas you suspect they pass regularly.

4. Raccoon hair

You may see some raccoon hair around your yard, which gives them away. Raccoons will start to shed their hair in the spring. This usually lasts for around 3 months.

Raccoon hair is like a long hair dog and a mix of white, grey, black, and brown.

Raccoons may also shed large patches of hair if they have any parasite or disease which can result in excessive hair loss.

5. Property damage

Raccoons are pests for a property as they can easily cause a lot of damage.

They can strip homes of shingles, soffits, insulation, and chew beams and boards. The most expensive damage by raccoons occurs in the attic areas.

Yet damage can also be caused to sheds and even external property from scratch marks. Raccoons can also dig up lawns trying to find grub under the soil.

6. Messy yard

A big sign of raccoons in your yard is that they are raiding your garbage cans. When you wake up in the morning and find your garbage all over your yard, then raccoons should be your first suspect.

Raccoons can easily open garbage cans and pull out food leftovers to feast on. You can check out my guide and how to stop raccoons in your trash cans.

7. Empty bird feeders

If you offer a bird feeder in your yard and suddenly see they are empty, the raccoons may be the culprit. This can be a seed feeder or even a nectar feeder.

Raccoons use bird feeders as an easy food source and will go out of their way to try and empty the food overnight.

8. Noises

Raccoons are quite vocal creatures and will make quite a lot of noise if they feel threatened. You may be able to eat raccoons nearby especially during the last hours of the night.

You may also be able to hear raccoons thumping above in your attic, or below your floor. This will be more obvious when they have curious and boisterous babies.

9. Smells

Raccoons can have a distinctive smell around them. This is due to a secretion they release to mark their territory.

What’s worse is that raccoon urine is pungent. Their poo is also strong smelling and even worse when they pile up in a latrine.

If you’re noticing putrid smells from your attics, crawlspace, or shed, it may just be a raccoon.

How to Prevent Raccoons

The best way to get rid of raccoons from your yard or home is to make it unpleasant for them to stick around.

Raccoons are pretty basic, they really just want somewhere to feel safe, warm and with a bit of food nearby.

If these basic needs are removed then they won’t see your property as a good place to stay. They’ll want to move on to somewhere where they do get these things.

If you’re looking for the best ways to keep raccoons off your property then check out my guide on 14 ways to deter raccoons.

Related questions

Do raccoons live in storm drains?

Raccoons don’t tend to den in storm drains. Yet raccoons regularly use storm drains to move about undetected. Storm drains are often described as being raccoon superhighways as they use them so frequently.

Raccoons may occasionally take temporary shelter in a storm drain. Yet, because they are so busy they will be frequently disturbed and wouldn’t be able to use it for a place of rest.

Final Thoughts

So what does a raccoon nest look like? Well, raccoons don’t actually build nests. They will use sheltered areas as dens.

Raccoons will use lots of different places as denning areas including human homes, decks, and sheds. They will also use natural structures such as trees, rocks as well as abandoned nests, and burrows.

These are often signs that raccoons are living near your home. These include scents, paw prints, noises, and property damage. The good news is pinpointing raccoons as the culprit is the first step. You can then put strategies in place to keep them away from your property.

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