As raccoons are brilliant animals in their own respect, with a high IQ positioned well above a hairy cat, it begs the question of how well they ACTUALLY communicate with each other and how they do it.
As a general rule, raccoons are known to communicate by using a wide variety of sounds, including barks, growls, snorts, screams, whines, whistles, and more. As raccoons are nocturnal animals, they communicate and use these sounds during the nighttime.
Raccoons are bright mammals, capable of exchanging a fine note or two. Although they do not engage in romantic ballads like the French occasionally do, raccoons tend to be dramatic when it comes to the range of sounds they can unleash under a good gust of wind while communicating.
Raccoons Bark and Growl to Communicate
When it comes to the communicative abilities observed in animals other than ourselves, it is generally said that most mammals can readily make use of four different ways to communicate in life. Indeed, most animals tend to express themselves either visually, auditory, chemically, or through touch.
As to the depth of communication, it should be clear that we are talking about a practical exchange of basic emotions and warnings as to either attract a fellow animal or fend off potential danger ahead.
To some extent, all four of these techniques apply to our dexterous raccoon friends!
For instance, raccoons can use their tail as a visual cue to indicate a posture that raises attention. At the same time, the same goes for their facial expressions – raccoons are even said to be wearing a facial mask, making them truly look like bandits.
When it comes to their chemical footprint, raccoons may communicate with others by leaving behind urine, feces, or another anal substance, all of which may serve as a territorial marking.
However, what stands out for our nocturnal, agile rascals is their ability to make noise and quite a lot of noise as well.
As a general rule, raccoons are said to make over 200 different kinds of sounds and noises – making them rather vocal when the need is present. The bark and growl of a raccoon are just one of the many ways that raccoons communicate!
Interesting fact: Raccoons are usually preyed upon by larger mammals such as wolves and bears. However, as larger animals have been well driven out of urban environments, raccoons have become masters of city life – often living closely outside the city limits. This, in turn, explains why they might be seen or heard during the daytime, albeit rarely.
Eerie as the noise at times might seem to be, some sounds are rather more distinct than others. Let us have a closer look at what raccoons shriek out and see if we can identify the occasions in which they tend to do so freely.
Mother Raccoons Chitter to Calm Their Kits
Although not all the sounds that animals in the wild make are readily understood, some sounds do stand out as researchers have regularly observed them.
Primarily used between a mother raccoon and her kits is the chittering, twittering, or chattering form of communication.
It is often said that mothers may attempt to calm down their young by making a faint chittering, twittering or purring sound. The kits respond with a quiet churr (a vibrant or whirring noise) to reflect their satisfaction in comfort.
This form of communication and choice of sound is most frequently applied during the first few months of a youngling’s existence. It is essential during this stage as the kits are born blind, gaining eye-sight only after a couple of weeks.
Furthermore, it is specifically used when kits venture about their den or when the mother raccoon guides them safely towards a tasty spot for hunting and feeding purposes.
Pretty interestingly, the rate of sounds amongst the kits usually depends on the nestling period.
At this point, the frequency of churrs usually starts to ramp up seriously. After that, when the kits slowly grow into maturity (which takes about a month or so) and become more mobile, the frequency and intensity of sound start to gradually decrease.
Mother Raccoons Can Identify Their Kits by Their Voice
Yes, it’s true that mother raccoons will be able to identify their specific kits by their individual acoustic tone (aka, voice). Experiments on the behavior and vocal abilities of female raccoons and their cubs have, for instance, showing that the kits answer faster and more frequently to the chittering sounds of their mother than raccoons tend to respond to the sounds of an unknown fellow raccoon.
This quicker response time indicates that they’re familiar with the sound the kit is making and aware that it is their own offspring.
Interesting fact: Male raccoons, also referred to as boars, have little to no role to play in bringing up their kits. It is even said that female raccoons drive the males away from their den when possible.
Raccoons usually mate during the late winter periods. Their kits (usually between two and five) are born in the springtime. As such, it is safe to assume that the twittering and purring sounds are more likely to come from female raccoons. However, this does not necessarily exclude the males from being able to do so as well.
Raccoons Scream and Screech When in Danger
In general, raccoons are reported to scream in the face of danger. This is especially the case when other raccoons, often males, pose a threat when approaching a female raccoon at her den. An aggressive scream, cry, hiss, or purr indicates a protective sound with the kits situated safely inside the warmth of their den.
In total, raccoons are known to cry out a series of sounds in the face of an imminent threat.
Within a fraction of a second, raccoons can become more vocal as the threat comes closer or remains for a more extended period at a time. Although it might also indicate a sign of stress, it more relates to alertness and undoubtedly serves as a warning signal going forward – especially when younglings are around and need protection.
Besides the occasional male raccoon foe, other animals which pose a threat to raccoons and cause them to use their voice are:
Raccoons Bark and Growl When Near Food
Another distinct noise raccoons tend to make are growls and barks. Raccoons sound dog-like or wolf-like when it comes to their feeding habits.
Not known to dine in silence, raccoons bark in excitement at the sight of a healthy snack or growl after a tasty feast.
Barks and growls are also noted to be exchanged when at a loss of orientation, when losing sight of a kit, for instance, or when generally experiencing stress.
Furthermore, raccoons are reported to growl and bark when entering a fight. However, the battle songs can quickly transform into a peculiar string of screams and cries.
In total, when a raccoon barks or growls, it’s either at a time of high excitement or high stress.
Raccoons Whistle and Hiss When Sensing Danger
When it comes to sudden confrontations with other animals, raccoons react with a series of screams, hisses, snarls, or growls depending on the perceived danger and level of threat.
However, again the whistling sounds of a causal, traveling raccoon may swiftly change into a series of screams and cries that resemble a whimpering dog or pig, especially when in a fight. The sounds that raccoons make change in the face of comfort and depend heavily on the ease at which they can genuinely go about their business.
When encountering others of their kind when away from danger close to their dens, raccoons also make use of a whistling sound that closely resembles the vocal abilities of an orderly owl. It is noted that whistling sounds are also more frequently reported among the kits; as their vocal abilities are less developed, they are often limited to the faintly sound of a whistle.
Quick fact: Although the exact meaning remains somewhat unclear, raccoons can produce a string of “oinnnnggg” like sounds, with each “oinnnnggg” being delivered at a consecutively lower pitch than the preceding sound.
Physical Ways That Raccoons Communicate
Raccoons also referred to as Procyon lotor, are furry mammals dressed in black with shades of white.
In general, it is said that raccoons are highly intelligent mammals, ranking just below the average monkey; they are reported to possess some 438 million neurons, all safely stored in the small space inside their heads.
Because of this intelligence, raccoons are able to interact with their immediate environment in various ways. Their intelligence has led them to evolve a diverse set of skills in their highly sensitive paws, making it much easier to engage with the wonders of life and communicate with each other. As such, raccoons can enable themselves to grab and hold or open and pull various objects towards themselves and at their fellow raccoons.
This, in turn, drastically increases their survival rate. It becomes significantly more easy to scavenge for food or seek a place of hiding. Besides their ability to transform their paws into firm hands of some kind, raccoons can swim, climb and dig when need be.
With their omnivorous diet, they will hunt down anything they can put their paws into, including plants, fruits, nuts, insects, fish, and small rodents such as the occasional mouse. Although they can survive significantly longer when held in captivity, in general, it is said that raccoons grow to live up to 3 years of age.
When it comes to intelligence, size usually matters. As raccoons are relatively small (generally between 10 and 30 pounds), their cleverness becomes even more remarkable within the animal kingdom.
During this time is when they’re most likely to interact with other raccoons. Raccoons will often come across each other and communicate physically. One of the common ways they communicate physically is by lowering their head to prepare for an altercation with another raccoon. Generally, this is accompanied by fierce hissing and snarling as well.
You can watch this video here for a great example.
Additionally, raccoons will “mark their territory” similar to many other wild animals to give off their scent and let other animals in the area know that it’s raccoon territory.
What To Do If You Hear a Raccoon Near Your Property
In case raccoons are continuously entering the shelter of your barn or backyard shed, you might want to make use of an outdoor scat mat to prevent them from crossing over inside.
A scat mat is excellent for raccoons and critters alike. It provides a semi-prickled barrier that keeps animals from wanting to walk across it. Thus, if you place a scat mat in front of your garden, garbage, or the entryway to your home, you can help to keep raccoons away from that immediate area.
For more information, you can have a look at this Homarden Cat Scat Mat.
As raccoons have a reasonably well-developed sense of taste and smell, it goes without saying that they might get attracted by following around their nifty nose and sense of direction. This, in turn, allows us to keep raccoons out of our property by way of smell.
We wrote a helpful guide on the scents that raccoons hate, which you can find here. Peppermint scent seems to work very well here.
While certain scents and repellents will do wonders to keep raccoons out, the BEST way to keep raccoons off of your property is to practice long-term habitat modification.
To keep raccoons out long term, you should:
- Keep any food scraps off your lawn and property
- Keep a proper seal on your garbage can
- Seal off any entry points to your home
- Keep your lawn trim
- Remove ground cover, such as low hanging shrubs
Lastly, although raccoons can climb anything they can set their pawns into – the entire length of a tree, for instance – it might still be helpful to guard off your property by making use of a fence of sorts.
You can use either fence off your ENTIRE property or just your garden. Depending on your acreage, it may not be possible to fence off your whole backyard.
Suppose you’re just fencing off your garden. In that case, you’d want to look into a quality galvanized mesh wire fencing material that is sturdy but flimsy enough to where the raccoon could not crawl over the top of it without the animal toppling over the fence due to its weight.
Quick fact: Raccoons are often arboreal rodents, meaning they tend to make their den in the proximity of trees, with a hollow tree being the preferred nesting spot. The top three nestling spots being trees, burrows, and buildings. Although raccoons can climb trees, they usually do not stay high up in trees as some other mammals do. What they can do, however, is climb a tree that is hanging over your property. As such, raccoons are better posed to finding a way inside.
That’s a Wrap!
To quickly summarize, raccoons can indeed make a string of sounds which for us may lead to a crescendo of confusion. Whether they are at ease or are being hunted by prey, it is not always made clear by their series of screams, growls, barks, whistles, chitters, and so much more.
That said, it is certain that raccoons do tend to express themselves by way of sound. This, especially when mothers address their young, when raccoons are scared, feeding, and encountering another of their kind.
In truth, whether to show signs of stress or comfort, raccoons surely are vocal creatures in the night. Finally, besides the occasional strange and almost other-worldly noises coming from a synthesizer-like sounding animal, raccoons are quite calm when they put their minds to it.
As they are active mainly during the night, the chances that you do hear a raccoon scream at the top of its lungs during the daytime remains rather slim to none.
In the rare case you are continuously disturbed by a band of raccoons playing dark tunes in your backyard, you can always request support from your local animal control. You can also choose to contact our nationwide network of pest and wildlife control professionals to find a contractor near you for free within a matter of seconds.
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Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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