Help! I found a baby raccoon! What now?
Raising an orphaned raccoon when you are not a licensed wildlife rehabilitor does not make you the hero of the story, it makes you the evil step-mother (or father.) Not only is it bad for the raccoon and frequently ends in the animal being euthanized, it can also get you fined or sent to jail!
Here is what you actually need to do should you find a baby raccoon:
Step 1: Assess the Situation
Before diving headfirst into “rescuing” a baby raccoon, take a moment to assess the situation. Often times, what appears to be an orphaned raccoon may not be. Mother raccoons frequently leave their young alone while searching for food. Therefore, observe from a distance; if the mother doesn’t return within a few hours, it may be time to step in.
Step 2: Ensure your Safety
Safety comes first. Raccoons, even babies, can carry diseases like rabies. It’s important not to touch or handle the raccoon with your bare hands. Use gloves if necessary, and keep the raccoon away from your face.
Additionally, do not allow the baby raccoon near any other animals, and ensure you clean yourself and your clothing thoroughly with antibacterial soap after handling. Raccoons can also spread distemper which can spread to and kill domestic dogs and exotic pets like foxes quickly.
Step 3: Create a Temporary Safe Space
If the mother raccoon doesn’t return and you decide to intervene, create a temporary safe space for the baby raccoon. Use a small box with soft bedding (like towels) and place it in a warm, quiet area. Do not try to feed the raccoon, as improper feeding can cause harm.
Step 4: Contact a Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator
The most crucial step is to get the baby raccoon to a professional as soon as possible. Wildlife rehabilitators are trained to provide the specialized care that a baby raccoon needs to survive and eventually be released back into the wild. Use online resources like Animal Help Now to find licensed wildlife rehabilitator in your area. The rehabber will instruct you from there.
What Not To Do if You Find a Baby Raccoon
Do Not Keep the Raccoon
It’s illegal in most places to keep a wild raccoon. Even if you live in a state like Arkansas or South Carolina where you can keep raccoons taken from the wild, it will not turn out well. Both of these states have strict regulations that prohibit you from rehoming your raccoon or taking it across state lines. In South Carolina, there are not vets who will see pet raccoons and DHEC will come and euthanize your raccoon if someone complains about you having one.
Additionally, raccoons are not domestic animals and have specific needs that are difficult to meet in a home environment. We have seen it time and time again–keeping a baby raccoon taken from the wild ends in tragedy the vast majority of the time.
Do Not Feed the Raccoon
If you find a raccoon, even if it is emaciated, do not feed it. If you are reading this article, then you are not a professional. Feeding can do more harm than good. Improper diet or feeding technique can lead to health issues for the raccoon.