If you’re hearing indiscernible animal sounds at night, there’s a possibility that there are raccoons near your house or property. Since they are nocturnal creatures, raccoons are most active at night — as soon as the sun sets, they leave their dens in search of food.
However, since people can’t see as well at night, it’s more difficult to know for sure whether you have raccoons. But while you might not see them, you just might hear them. This is why it’s important to know the different sounds and noises raccoons make.
Fun Fact: Raccoons are extremely vocal animals. These mammals can make over 200 sounds that indicate whether they’re communicating with each other, searching for food and shelter, fighting with other raccoons, or defending their young. On top of vocalizations, raccoons also create different sounds as they move around.
What Types of Sounds do Raccoons Make?
One of the most common vocalizations that raccoons make is a chittering sound. Chittering has several variations and is used by raccoons in different contexts. Adult raccoons chitter when they are interacting with other raccoons, and cubs chitter when approaching or calling for their mother. Raccoons can also chitter when they come across each other while searching for food, in resting places, or while just moving about.
Raccoons are also very vocal during the breeding season, which means you’ll likely hear a variety of chittering sounds during this time. Since raccoons are solitary creatures, female raccoons will use these vocalizations to call on or find a mate.
Purring or churring is another sound made by raccoons. It is almost exclusively produced by cubs in their den. The young raccoons purr whenever their mother holds, licks, or nibbles on them and this sound will continue as long as the mother raccoon is in contact with her cubs. And female raccoons purr when caring for their cubs. Raccoons of all ages and genders may also purr as a sign of affection or happiness.
Hissing and Growling
Raccoons are meek creatures — they aren’t aggressive unless sick or threatened. However, if they feel trapped, cornered, or threatened, they produce defensive sounds, such as hissing and growling. This is a more guttural vocalization and they will also likely be showing their sharp teeth and claws in defensive a display. A mother raccoon may also hiss and growl to protect her cubs.
Snarling, Screeching, Screaming, and Squealing
Raccoons also produce more violent sounds, such as snarling, screeching, and screaming. You can hear these vocalizations when raccoons are fighting among themselves. These sounds can sometimes be mistaken for screeching owls or fighting cats. Raccoons also scream and squeal to indicate that they are in distress.
Similar to dogs, raccoons can make a barking sound. This vocalization is usually heard when a raccoon is under stress or suffering. You might also hear barking when a raccoon is stuck or when a female raccoon cannot find her cubs.
What do Raccoons Sound like when they Move?
While raccoons make a variety of vocalizations, they also make noise when they move around. The most common movement-related sounds you might hear are rustling, scratching, or dragging.
You might hear rustling when raccoons are foraging for food, for example in garbage cans and bins. If they gain entry, you might also hear them rustling around your home, brushing up against wood beams in your attic or inside your walls tearing up insulation.
Similarly, raccoons produce scratching sounds as they move around in different areas of your house. You might hear these clever creatures scratching in between your walls or crawlspace. Scratching sounds may also be heard as raccoons try to climb down your pipes or up your counters and cabinets if they find a way inside.
Raccoons can weight between 10 to 15 pounds and their slow and plodding movement can produce dragging sounds. For example, as they make their way across your roof, through the inside of your walls, or up into your chimney.
If you hear loud, thumping noises at the start of the year, there might be raccoons mating within the vicinity of your home. January to March is usually raccoon breeding season and babies are born in early summer. These sounds will also be accompanied by chittering and other vocalizations.
What do Baby Raccoons Sound Like?
In addition to the wide range of vocalizations produced by adult raccoons, baby raccoons also produce their own distinct sounds. This includes crying, squealing, cooing, chirping, and mewing. These sounds can usually be heard when baby raccoons are hungry, scared, or in danger — especially if their mother is away. The intensity of the cubs’ sounds will depend on the degree of their distress and will change as they mature.
Baby raccoons might also squeal when they are grabbed by their mother, but will quiet down once the mother begins to groom them. Adult female raccoons usually have about 2 to 6 babies per litter and cubs are not mobile for the first couple of weeks. When the mother leaves to forage for food, the babies are left alone in the den, which means if you’re hearing cubs, the den is close by.
What do Rabid Raccoons Sound Like?
Because raccoons are primary carriers of rabies, an infected raccoon is very dangerous. It’s important to know how to distinguish them from uninfected raccoons by the sounds they make. A rabid raccoon will produces different noises from their healthy counterparts.
An infected raccoon might squeal, screech, and hiss. While this can be similar to the noises made by a healthy raccoon, it’s sometimes possible to differentiate between the two.
Healthy raccoons produce these vocalizations in the presence of other raccoons during normal interactions such as fighting or mating. Healthy raccoons do not usually make a lot of noise when they’re alone — in fact lone raccoons are usually fairly quiet. In contrast, a rabid raccoon might hiss, squeal or screech even when no other raccoons or visible threats are present.
A rabid raccoon will also be very aggressive and defensive, even if unprovoked or in the absence of danger. While healthy raccoons might run away from humans, a rabid raccoon will not be skittish.
Visual cues are also important in identifying a potentially rabid raccoon. An infected raccoon will have difficulty walking due to paralysis in the legs. They will also look very confused and disoriented and have a sickly appearance with foaming at the mouth.
If you notice any of the signs above in a raccoon or if you suspect that a raccoon is infected, contact a professional pest control service as soon as possible. Do not approach or try to capture the raccoon by yourself.
Identifying and Coexisting with your Masked Neighbors
Being able to identify the animals in your neighborhood by their sounds can be helpful in many ways. Maybe you’ve been having problems with someone emptying your trash cans onto the lawn at night, or you suspect you might have a few unwanted guests in your attic. Whatever your reasons, having a basic understanding of the different sounds raccoons make, might just help you avoid problems down the line.
To recap, raccoons have a rich vocal repertoire consisting of over 200 sounds. Even their most common sound, chittering, has variations that express different moods and situations. While most sounds they make are social in nature, raccoons also make defensive sounds such as hissing, growling, and squealing when threatened, either by other raccoons or predators.
In addition to vocalizations, raccoons also produce movement-related sounds, such as rustling and scurrying. Since raccoons are nocturnal, you’ll usually hear these noises at night. Movement sounds can also alert you to the presence of raccoons in your house or you might hear them rustling in your garbage cans or scurrying across your roof. Hearing concentrated baby raccoon sounds may also mean that a part of your house or yard is being used as a den.
Despite their cute appearance, raccoons are rabies carriers. If you have raccoons in your area, you should be alert and careful if you come across one. If you pay attention to their behavior, you can likely identify their actions — healthy or otherwise. And you’ll have a better handle on things if you encounter raccoons.