Raccoons have adapted well to living around us. They can have litters in the spring and fall, so it’s common to run across baby raccoons this time of year.
A mother raccoon often leaves her babies unattended for extended periods of time so unless the baby is exhibiting signs of injury or distress, it’s best to leave it alone. Here are a few ways to help determine if a baby raccoon is injured and/or orphaned.
If the baby raccoon is exhibiting any obvious bleeding, fractures, a severe head tilt, eye injuries (like swollen, crusty or red eyes), obvious maggots or parasites, or if it is following humans continuously, you may need to intervene. Signs of injury mean there’s a reason to help that baby raccoon. Please call us at Willowbrook Wildlife Center at 630-942-6200 before you bring an animal in. There’s a lot of information to consider when rescuing animals.
If you find a baby raccoon alone but not injured, keep an eye on it from afar to see if the mother returns. If the baby is in an open or unsafe place, provide it with a nest box to stay in while waiting for the mother to return. Willowbrook Wildlife Center loans out sturdy, wooden nest boxes, or you can make your own. A fully enclosed box with an entrance hole will serve the purpose. Place nesting materials such as grass or leaves in the box.
Using a Nest Box
1. Locate the original den site and determine the path the mother would most likely travel to and from the den. If the den site was in a home or other structure and the baby has been removed from its original location, leave it in a nest box as near as possible to the point of original access.
2. Place the nest box somewhere along or as close to this path as possible. (If pets or children are in the area, we recommend that you hang the nest box out of reach.)
3. Leave the area and the baby raccoon in the nest box overnight. Do not disturb the nest box in any way for the amount of time designated by Willowbrook staff. Do not feed the baby; it needs to cry so mom can better locate it. Do not remove the baby from the nest box. Do not put food out for the mother, as this may attract predators.
Monitor the nest from inside your house. Your presence in the area will prevent the mother from approaching the nest box. It also helps to keep activity around the box to a minimum. Keep children, pets or anything that might deter the mother from returning away from the nest box.
4. Don’t be alarmed if the baby or babies disappear (sometimes one at a time). It may take the mother several days to relocate an entire litter. In some situations, the mother may use the nest box to raise her young.
5. Check the box after the designated time period has passed. If mom has visited, the baby's belly will appear round and full from feeding. If the designated time period has passed and a baby is still in the box with a belly that appears to be empty, then it is time to bring it to Willowbrook and consider other options.
If you’re still unsure about how to check the baby raccoon's condition or a long time has passed without reuniting babies with their mother, call Willowbrook at 630-942-6200 for advice on how to proceed. We’re always willing to help with any wildlife situation you may encounter. Keep in mind that it’s illegal to keep wild animals, even for a short time. They have special nutritional, housing and handling needs, and inexperienced individuals who try to raise or treat them inevitably produce unhealthy, tame animals that can't survive in the wild.
Links to helpful information:
Baby Raccoon Rescue Advice
Native Wildlife Rescue Advice
Living with Wildlife