NEVER use bare hands when handling a baby raccoon. Keep all skin covered. Wear thick gardening gloves and wrap a t-shirt or pillow case around the baby. Maintain a barrier between your skin and the raccoon at all times. If you are bitten or scratched, call your local health department for further instructions.
NO FOOD OR WATER! People often think that feeding an orphaned baby will make it feel better, but doing so can actually endanger its life. Here are the reasons why:
It is very important to give mother raccoons every opportunity to find and continue to care for their babies. If the raccoon seems healthy, it should be left out for at least 24 hours at times of day when raccoons are most active, for the mother to claim. It is possible that she is still around but has become temporarily separated from her baby.
IMPORTANT: If the baby is mobile, you can put an upside-down laundry basket over it with a rock on top to contain it. The rock should be light enough that mom could move it.
If the baby is smaller (eight-inches long or less) and cannot move on its own, the best option is to enclose it in a reunite box with a flap through which mom can retrieve the baby.
Making the box: Using a medium-sized cardboard box, cut air holes in the top third of the box. Then, cut a large circle out of one of the sides in order to create an entrance, but leave some cardboard attached to make a flap, allowing the mother to reach in and get her babies. Make sure the hole is large enough for an adult raccoon.
Step 1: Contain the baby in a box with clean linens on the bottom
If the baby is eight-inches long or smaller and seems passive, you can contain the animal by wearing thick gardening-type gloves. Cover up the entire baby with a spare linen or t-shirt, then use the linen to scoop it up into the box, leave the linen in with the baby (NOTE: Raccoon’s sharp nails can get stuck in the loops of a towel, which can cause injury. Also, be careful not to use linens with holes or large-weave blankets, as these can also cause injury to the animal.) Once the baby (or babies) is in the box, secure the box closed. The mother can get to her baby through the large, circular hole on the side of the box. Make sure to cover the babies with spare linens so that they are not exposed to the temperatures and weather. Do not put the box directly in contact with the ground. Use a piece of cardboard, blankets, or leaves under the box to act as insulation.
Step 2: Give the baby a source of heat
Babies can die from getting too cold (hypothermia). Additionally, mother raccoons typically will not retrieve cold babies. Remember, do not touch the raccoons or come into direct contact when placing a heat source in the box. The best thing to use is a heating pad set on LOW under half of the box, because it provides a nice consistent source of heat. You may have to run an extension cord to the area. If you don’t have a heating pad, you can use chemical hand warmers such as Hot Paws, a rice sock, or a plastic water bottle filled with hot tap water. The hot water bottle will need to be replaced frequently as it cools. Tuck the heat source under the linens in the box with the raccoons, rather than placing it directly next to the babies.
Step 3: Leave the container in the area where the baby was found
If you have seen the mother, place the box along her route where you think she would encounter it. Otherwise, put the box as close as possible to where the baby was found, as the mother will be most likely to look for it nearby. If using a box without a lid, place a flat piece of cardboard over half the box to give the baby some shelter from sunlight, light rain or snow. Once you’ve placed the box outside at night, it’s important that you play a sound loop of a baby raccoon crying to attract the mother. Click here to play sound.
What if it rains or snows? In heavier rain or snow, try placing a plastic bin on its side and tucking the box inside for shelter. In the case of stormy weather, keep the baby in the box and bring it inside until the weather clears; mom won’t be looking for it in the middle of a storm. As soon as the weather clears, put the baby back out where it was found.
Step 4: Check to see if the mother has retrieved the baby
Baby raccoons should be left out for one full night, from dusk until dawn, even if found during the day. Mother raccoons are most likely to retrieve their babies when it’s dark, and there are fewer people around. Stay far away from the box so that you do not scare the mother. Check the box in the morning to see if the mother has retrieved the babies. It may take the mother as long as 48 hours to retrieve all of her babies.
If the baby has been out for a full night and the mother has not retrieved it, contact Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for further instructions (303) 823-8455. Keep the baby in a securely closed container with air holes and continue to offer a heat source.
Watch a mother raccoon retrieve her young from a reunite box during the night:
*NOTE:This was filmed remotely. No humans should be in the area during the attempted reunite, so the mother has time to retrieve her babies
Transporting to Greenwood
It is very important to think first about what the injured animal needs and the fact that contact with people is stressful for the animal. Once the animal arrives at a rehabilitation center, it will be treated by experienced staff and volunteers who will ensure that it receives the best care possible.
Nuisance raccoons (READ THIS BEFORE CONTACTING PEST CONTROL COMPANIES)
Contrary to popular belief, live-trapping a wild animal and relocating it elsewhere is not a good way to solve problems with wildlife. In the State of Colorado, you must get permission from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to trap nuisance wildlife. While it may seem like a humane option, it usually ends up being a slow death sentence for the animal. It also leaves your property vulnerable to ongoing wildlife conflicts. Here’s some of the reasons that relocating is discouraged:
Baby raccoons left behind after a mother has been relocated are almost always orphaned. Call Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at (303) 823-8455.
I have a raccoon living in my attic, under my deck, in my chimney! What do I do?
Unless it is necessary, AVOID USING THIS OR ANY OTHER EXCLUSION METHOD FROM MARCH TO JUNE WHEN BABIES ARE IMMOBILE and MAY BE INSIDE THE DEN.
Once the babies are old enough to go on outings with their mom, she will be less likely to leave them behind during a humane eviction.
Any raccoon inhabiting a den during the spring and summer should be assumed to be part of a family, even if only one raccoon is seen. You have three options:
Option 1: Do nothing at all. Often, this is the best course of action. Raccoons typically inhabit den sites for short periods. They seek dens in the spring and summer, when they rear their young, and in the winter during cold spells. Raccoon babies are independent by the end of the summer, when they leave the den and disperse from their family groups. Raccoons do not present a threat to people, and if minor inconveniences of their presence can be tolerated, it is easiest to simply wait until they leave naturally. Then, close off the area to prevent future use of the den site.
Option 2: Use humane harassment to encourage the raccoons to leave the den. The Sight-Sound-Smell Harassment is detailed below and should be placed at the opening to the den. If the raccoons are living in a chimney, you can put the items at the mouth of the chimney or at the fireplace. This method is best used after most babies are weaned and before the weather gets too cold. Although most mothers will move their young babies to a new den site when frightened, it is always possible that an evicted mother might abandon or become separated from her babies.
*Sight-Sound-Smell Harassment – place the following items near the den opening:
This sensory harassment should be used at night when raccoons are most active. Continue them for three consecutive nights from dusk to dawn. Sometime during this period, the raccoon will probably relocate itself and its family to a new home. After three days remove the harassment and check to make sure the raccoons are no longer using the den by taping a piece of newspaper over the entrance hole. Check the newspaper entrance daily for three days in a row. If it is undisturbed for that period of time, and there are no sounds coming from inside the den, it is safe to close the hole without the worry of trapping an animal inside.
Option 3: Contact a humane wildlife removal service. We recommend: