Should I 'Save' a Wild Baby Raccoon?

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A raccoon that you have found 'out in the wild' is probably not alone. This is the case whether you're looking at an adult or a youngster. An adult will usually be a female, with a nest of babies hidden away somewhere. A young raccoon, seemingly orphaned and with no one else around to help protect it, might not even be as alone as you first thought.

There are a number of scenarios that could be behind a lost or alone baby raccoon being out of the nest. In some cases, a pet cat or dog may have come across the nest, gotten a little carried away, stolen one of the little kits, and then ran off with it. This can happen and does happen from time to time. How many times has your domesticated cat brought home a bird or mouse as a treat for you? (Despite you not wanting the thing at all.) Pets dig up other animals all the time.

There are many predators of raccoons, particularly raccoon youngsters, and they might be responsible for the orphaned little chap that you have found. The baby you're looking at might be the only one that is left, or it might be the one that the predatory animal has chosen to feast on, running off with it in the same way that your pet would, but dropping it in the process.

Another scenario that would lead to a non-orphaned, orphaned raccoon is if the mother is moving her young from one den site to another. This happens fairly regularly, but usually only as and when necessary. It is very dangerous for raccoon mothers to move their young, especially as they may not be able to carry them all in one trip. If repeated trips are taken, some of the young are left alone, unprotected, and defenceless, for prolonged periods of time.

A female raccoon will always find a spot to create her den in places where it is warm, sheltered, and protected, and at times, this can get a little too much for her young. If it becomes too warm in the den itself, the kits may venture slightly further afield, perhaps even getting themselves lost, falling out of the nest, or heading out too far to then be able to make it back safely.

If the nest is disturbed, either by predators, other animals, or people, the nest might be abandoned, all animals within it literally running for their lives. If this is the case, again, the raccoon mother may accidentally leave one of her babies behind or could lose a few. She will usually go searching for them for a while; however, and may even look for them for several days before finally giving up.

The kits could be orphaned, of course; the mother may have been attacked by a predator or been trapped/killed by humans. After a while, the young may wander away from the nest in a bid to find their mother or some food/hydration.

Mothers of most wild animals are known to abandon their young if they know or sense that their young are sick or could die. They won't waste precious resources trying to keep alive animals that have no chance of survival. It would be a waste of time, especially when life is difficult enough out there as it is. It really is a case of survival of the fittest, and the mother raccoon will leave young behind if they don't “make the cut” so to speak.

In so many of these cases, the mother will come to the rescue. If the kit has wandered off from the nest, a few calls will usually be enough to make mama come running. In fact, a few calls from her young will make a mother raccoon move fast, and kits that fall under predatory attack will try to be saved. This means that the mother may attack you if you get too close, believing you to be a predator too.

In almost all cases, the mother will come back for her young If she doesn't, there is usually a very good reason behind it. By getting involved, you could potentially “kidnap” a youngster that was simply waiting for the mother to come back. Leave the baby raccoon alone — don't touch it. If it doesn't appear to have been “saved” after a few hours, get in touch with local animal services or wildlife rehabilitators.

For more information, you may want to click on one of these guides that I wrote:
How much does raccoon removal cost? - get the lowdown on prices.
How to get rid of raccoons - my main raccoon removal info guide.
Example raccoon trapping photographs - get do-it-yourself ideas.
Raccoon job blog - learn from great examples of raccoon jobs I've done.
Raccoons in the attic - what to do to solve the problem.

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