Raccoons are essentially active at night. During the winter, when it is very cold, they may spend many long hours sleeping in their dens, but they do not hibernate. Because their metabolism and internal temperature stay constant, they have to survive on their stored fat, and may lose up to 50% of their body weight.
Raccoons can run at speeds of up to 24 km/h (15 mi/h) on the ground. They are good climbers and not afraid of falling, because they can drop for about 15 metres without getting hurt. They are also excellent swimmers. Raccoons don’t tend to roam very much, going only as far as necessary to feed and meet their basic needs (1 to 4 km a night).
Raccoon population density varies with their habitat. The largest concentration of raccoons is found in wetlands (marshes, lowlands, intertidal zones, floodplains, etc.) and the lowest in agricultural areas. Urban settings, given the right conditions, can support large raccoon populations.
Rabies is an important factor in population control. When the rabies virus is absent, raccoon populations may double.
An individual’s territory covers 1 to 3 km2. Although raccoon are solitary animals, they are not very territorial and are happy to share with other raccoons.
Raccoons have a poor color vision seeing the world mostly in shades of grey. They do have excellent night vision, however, along with a highly developed sense of hearing.
Raccoons’ prehensile paws mean that they have very good manual dexterity. They can climb trees, open shells and doors and even remove trashcan lids. They are highly intelligent and resourceful animals.