- Does Baby feel cold and lethargic?
- Is Baby covered with parasites (fleas, fly strike or ticks)?
- Has Baby been in a dog or cat’s mouth?
- Does Baby have a broken limb or other obvious injury?
- Does Baby have abrasions?
- Is Baby having difficulty breathing (gasping, gurgling)?
- Is Baby’s coat matted and/or patchy?
- Does Baby have a head tilt and cannot hold its head straight?
- Is Baby exhibiting odd behavior (circling, falling over, etc.)?
- Is Baby bleeding?
- Did you find what you believe to be Mom dead?
If you answered YES to any of the above questions, reuniting babies with Mom is no longer an option and baby needs to get to a rehabber immediately. Please call the Wildlife Hotline @ 1-855-WILD-HELP for assistance and read the following protocol on how best to house and secure babies until you can get them to a rehabber.
*Regardless of species or time of year, ALWAYS make sure that babies are WARM to the touch before attempting to reunite. A water bottle with hot water with a sock over it will work to warm babies, or a heating pad will do as well. You can make your own heat source for babies by taking a clean tube sock, filling it with uncooked rice, tie the end of the sock so it won’t spill and microwave for 1-2 minutes. Place the warm sock in with the babies and let them decide if they want to be on it or away from it. If you decide to use a water bottle, make absolutely sure that you do not not let that bottle get cold! Once the bottle is cold it will suck heat away from babies instead of warming them. NEVER feed or give water without instruction from a rehabber! We are available 24-Hours, 7 days a week – If you think baby needs food or water, call us first PLEASE!
Common Orphan Scenarios
Baby raccoons tend to get separated from Mom in only a few situations.
1. Mom was trapped, or killed, and babies were found after the fact.
2. Mom is in the process of moving babies to a new den and can only carry one in her mouth at a time.
3. Babies were trapped and Mom could not get to them. (baby’s leg caught in tree, baby falls inside wall of home, etc.)
4. Baby was intentionally left by Mom because she knows something that we don’t know, or could not provide for all of the young in her care.
All of these situations are difficult, but the simplest are the top two. We will tackle those first.
Scenario 1: Mom was trapped and babies were found later.
We need to know what happened to Mom, whether she was killed or ‘relocated’ by someone. Remember – we don’t REALLY know if that was Mom at all anyway. It’s possible, granted not very probable, that you have relocated Dad, not Mom! Once we determine if Mom is alive, and how far she has gone, we can decide whether or not these babies can be reunited. If you ‘relocated’ Mom more than 1-2 miles away, reuniting the babies is no longer an option. Even at 1-2 miles, it’s a long shot, but worth a try.
Scenario 2: Mom is moving the babies.
Raccoon mothers often have multiple den sites that they plan to use while rearing their kids. There are times that Mom decides she doesn’t want to live in the first den anymore and begins to move the babies. Normally, she will wait until they can follow her to the new den site on foot. But if she was disturbed by someone, construction noise, predators, pesticides, pets, or anything else she may decide to move immediately. This can happen during daytime hours, or at night, and it can take quite a while for her to come back to get each kid. If the thing that ran her off in the first place is interfering in her process of moving them, like a dog in a yard, or a construction crew on site, it can take even longer. Look for nesting materials near the babies. Do you see a pile of leaves, sticks, trash, or a cubby of any kind that Mom may have stuck the babies inside of? Can you watch the babies from afar and make sure that no one disturbs the area long enough to see if Mom makes a return? If you can’t tell, take photos for us and email them in from your cell phone. Everyone has a camera phone now, and this can give us a lot of insight as to whether or not these babies are truly orphaned or just in the middle of a move. Call us at 1-855-WILD-HELP or email to firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
This scenario depends on how long baby has been away from Mom. If baby is healthy, it’s worth trying to reunite just in case Mom is still coming back to check for him. Mother raccoons have been known to tear through a wall to get to a baby. Are you still hearing Mom at all, or are you hearing any scratching noises anywhere except where you know baby to be? If baby was stuck outdoors, make sure he is not injured, but then attempt to reunite. Babies are not usually stuck outdoors without Mom frantically checking back trying to help him. What we tend to hear more often are situations where Mom was living in a shed with the babies and everyone was happy. Then a homeowner noticed that they didn’t close the shed door, and they happen to close the door while Mom is not at home. Now the babies are stuck in the shed and Mom can’t get in. Situations like these are perfect for reuniting! We may need to coordinate with the homeowner to get babies re-hydrated and warm before attempting to reunite that evening.
Scenario 4: Mom seemingly left baby behind intentionally.
This is a difficult scenario. First of all, we have no way of knowing if the mother truly wanted to leave baby behind. That being said, we get a lot of these in the Midwest. People call to say that they found a baby raccoon, all alone, in the middle of a parking lot, or street, or sidewalk. Don’t assume that this baby doesn’t fall into one of the first three scenarios. It is still possible that Mom is moving the babies and this one wandered from where she left it. As silly as it might sound, try the reunite process in EXACTLY that spot. Stranger things have happened! These babies often end up in rehab as the ‘failure to thrive’ (runt) babies. The question is whether or not Mom knew that and intentionally left him behind because he was the runt or if the baby was left behind accidentally and then became the runt because of the situation.
Find a tall cardboard box (like a moving box) or a 10 gallon or larger plastic tote. Even a laundry basket will do if you have nothing else and the babies are small enough. The babies need to stay in the box, so it needs to be tall enough that they cannot crawl out. You can use a towel, pillowcase, or newspaper in the bottom of the box/tote to cushion the babies.
Step 2. YOU MUST REUNITE RACCOONS AT NIGHT!!!
Because you must wait until evening, you WILL need a heat source for these babies when they put them back outside. The best possible way to do this is if you have a heating pad and can run an extension cord out to where you are placing the box with the babies inside. Do NOT put the heating pad inside the box! The heating pad should be under the box for the babies, set to low or medium and positioned so the babies can get away from it if they want to. If you do not have a heating pad, you can make one with a men’s tube sock and white rice. Fill a sock with uncooked rice, tie the end of the sock into a knot so the rice can’t pour out. Microwave the sock for 1-2 minutes until warm. Place the warm sock with the babies so they can feel it but get away from it if it is too hot. Rice socks will need to be reheated every hour and placed INSIDE the box with the babies.
After you have the babies situated in a box, right before you put them outside, take a sheet of newspaper and tape a ‘lid’ over the box with it. Mom will tear through this in two seconds when she finds them, and it will give you a visual clue from afar as to when she has visited.
Wait, and wait, and wait. It needs to be dark, and QUIET for Mom to come back. Keep the kids and pets inside! This is a stakeout, and everyone needs to lay low.
If Mom does come back, she will get the babies one at a time. It will take a little while for her to grab them all. This can take ALL night. Be patient. When using a heating pad and extension cord, you can go to sleep and set the alarm for 4+ hours later to check on the babies. With the rice sock, you will need to check every 60 minutes, at least to reheat the sock. If by dawn Mom hasn’t returned for ANY of the babies, it is time to get them to a rehabber. If she came to get one or more baby, we can reattempt the next night, but a rehabber needs to be involved so that baby is hydrated and well enough for the reattempt.
Photo Credits to J. Isaacs