Raccoons are opportunistic foragers. They will eat almost anything and can be seen rummaging in your garbage cans in winter, as well as in wooded areas. They are also nocturnal and active at night, lumbering around on all four paws and often crossing roads or highways at dusk and dawn. Despite their cute and clever appearance, they are considered a nuisance by many homeowners and can cause damage to home exteriors, chimneys, eaves, and attics.
Raccoons do not enter true hibernation but will sleep for extended periods of time, or go into a state of torpor. Torpor is a dormant phase where the animal’s metabolism slows down and heart rate drops. This allows the animal to conserve energy but can quickly awaken if there is a threat.
As the winter approaches, raccoons pack on extra body fat to prepare for their long sleep. They may den up in tree cavities, ground burrows, rock crevices or abandoned buildings. A female with her young will den up with her babies, but this is temporary and she will leave the den when the weather warms up again.
Raccoons in northern climates spend most of the winter huddled up in their dens, but they are opportunistic foragers and will go out to hunt food or search for water when the weather is mild. They will even break into people’s houses, especially attics or unused chimneys to find shelter and warmth.