New Members to our Raccoon Population? Everything to Know About the Loma Raccoons in Spring

By: Amber Paulin

To be a Point Loma Nazarene University student is to come into contact with our furry, nocturnal raccoon friends of San Diego. Maybe their fluffy silhouettes bumble across Caf Lane as you take a sunrise run. Or perhaps a pair of reflective eyes beams down at you from the top of the dumpster leaving you unsure of how to process the contents of your trash bag at 11 p.m.

The Loma raccoons are icons, and while PLNU’s mascot is technically the sea lion, the @loma.raccoons Instagram account might just hint otherwise.

But how much do we know about our stripe-tailed neighbors? It turns out that with March well upon us, raccoon breeding season is in full swing, which means that PLNU might soon become home to some new masked little faces. 

Heather Schnider works as an outreach specialist with the San Diego Humane Society’s Project Wildlife to raise awareness about species such as the Northern Raccoon (the primary raccoon species inhabiting North America, and the only one to call the San Diego area home). 

Schnider said that raccoons are one of the species consistently in the care of the San Diego Humane Society. 

“Northern raccoons are one of the more common species of patient we take in,” said Schnider. “We have them in our care consistently, especially during their breeding season.” 

According to Schnider, this timeframe technically runs from January to June. 

That means that it’s possible that if you have slept with your dorm room window open any time in the last few weeks, you’ve heard some 12 a.m. screeching from our raccoon buddies. And no, this is not because the furry celebrities are being ground to roadkill, rather, the male raccoons are trying to get the attention of their lady friends.

Despite the five-month time window, most raccoon kits will be born during April and May, said Schnider.

Important to keep in mind is that both male and female raccoons will become more aggressive during these time frames, Schnider said. 

The Toronto Wildlife Centre (Toronto being a city that considers itself to be consistently handling an oversized raccoon population) states that the animals are “naturally cautious of people and won’t attack under normal circumstances.” A raccoon’s instinctual response most of the time is to “freeze and stare” at a human.

However, according to Schnider, a female with kits, in particular, will be highly “protective of her young, defending them against predators, other raccoons and even humans if they feel threatened” during this time.

As for the young raccoons themselves, Schnider said, they “will be born with their eyes and ears shut but will gain hearing and sight in around 2 to 3 weeks.” They will remain with their mother for 4 to 5 months, before heading off on their own–just in time to greet those of us who will be returning to PLNU for the fall of 2024.

Schnider also said that another behavior pattern to be aware of is that, although raccoons are nocturnal creatures, it is not uncommon for them to venture out and about during daylight hours while they are raising their young.

“This debunks the myth that seeing a raccoon out during the day is indicative of rabies,” said Schnider.

Schnider said, “It is always best to keep a safe distance from raccoons and avoid any contact with them, especially due to the zoonotic diseases they could potentially carry.”

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, “raccoons are highly adaptive and may easily become food conditioned or lose their fear of humans” if humans provide the raccoon with food.

This relationship is hazardous for humans, because according to the National Library of Medicine, “more than 85% of the rabies cases currently recorded in the United States are reported from raccoons.”

The relationship is also hazardous for raccoons who should not become reliant on humans for nutrients (even if they do love that 11 p.m. snack from PLNU’s dumpsters).

If at any time anyone comes across a raccoon or any other wild animal in need of rehabilitation, Schnider recommends that the person call the San Diego Humane Society at (619) 299-7012.