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There is an incredibly long list of reasons why you wouldn't want to handle a raccoon at all, let alone with bare hands. In fact, this is much the same as with ANY wild animal — they all have the potential to be dangerous to people and other animals, domestic and wild, in a large number of ways.
Baby raccoons and adult raccoons are as dangerous as each other. Females are aggressive when defending a nest of kits (baby raccoons), and males are aggressive over territories and mating rights. In some cases, you can use the scent of male raccoons to scare off females and kits — eviction fluid, also known as raccoon or wildlife eviction fluid — contains the scent of male raccoons and other predators of raccoons.
Raccoons are known to carry diseases, including rabies. In some states, rabies is such a huge concern for local wildlife and urban communities that wild raccoons must be destroyed, rather than released back into the wild. Rabies is passed from one animal to another by way of body fluids — blood, saliva, etc. If you had a cut on your hand and some of the raccoons blood or saliva then went into that cut, any diseases could easily be passed over. These animal to human disease are called zoonotic diseases, and there are more than a few more of them to add to the list.
Raccoon roundworm, fleas, ticks, mites (and the diseases that they can also carry along), tularemia, salmonellosis, and more can all be passed from raccoons to humans and domestic pets. These diseases can be passed on through physical contact, contact with urine or feces, or contaminated food or water sources (from urine or feces). In some cases, disease biological matter can be found on other materials, such as bedding or nesting materials (including attic insulation), and items or materials that have been chewed by the raccoon.
Dead raccoons are just as risky as alive ones are, and the threat of rabies can still be found on the carcass of a raccoon. Dead animals also attract other pests, including flies, maggots, rats, mice, opossums, and other scavengers.
There are further risks to worry about also; handling a young raccoon kit could result in that kit being abandoned by its mother. Feeding and getting overly comfortable with raccoons, both adults and kits alike, will create a bond that encourages them to come back time and time again. This will cause you problems when you decide that raccoon has become too demanding and destructive to keep around.
How safe is handling raccoons? Not safe at all, is the answer. We do not recommend that you attempt to handle a raccoon, and definitely not without some sort of protection, such as thick, rubber gloves.
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.