How to rescue raccoon kits

Early this spring I heard some noise under my house and thought it was groundhogs as usual. Although I hadn’t been bothered by groundhogs for a couple of years, I’d gone through 8 or 9 years of trying everything I could to get them from digging and nesting under my house. Well, it seems I’d succeeded in banishing groundhogs but ended up with raccoons. I spotted this mother raccoon on my deck railing, headed for the bird feeder in April.

Mother raccoon

In late June my friend Tony was here building me a wood shed and one afternoon we heard this wailing and chattering coming from under the house and back porch. Neither of us were sure what it was. I phoned a friend of mine in Toronto, Alissa York (author of Fauna; you’ll know why I called her if you go back a few pages in these posts and see the raccoon cake she made for the launch) and held the phone receiver to the noise. “Baby raccoons,” she said. “Sounds like they’re in distress. Have you seen the mother?” Oh cripes, I told her, there’s been a dead raccoon out on the road for two days. “Go look at it and see if it’s got teets, that’ll tell you if it’s the mother.”

Sure enough, the raccoon dead on the road had been a nursing mother and we concluded that the racket coming from under my house was from orphaned kits. But I decided to leave them alone for a day just in case I was wrong. The next day the noise was louder and out popped one of them from under the porch.

Raccoon kit

I didn’t know the first thing about baby raccoons, or what I should do. My main concern was that they were under my house and if they died down there it would be a hellish odour for weeks. So Tony and I lifted a couple of boards off the porch deck and I started to pull them out. I had gloves on and a heavy shirt for protection but they were sweet and mild as kittens. I went online and did some research and called a woman I know who’d “rehabilitated” several raccoons in her life. All the advice said, don’t get friendly, don’t touch them, don’t feed them, call an animal shelter. I called every animal shelter within 100km, plus animal control and the Ministry of Natural Resources. I got NO help except from one animal shelter worker who said she’d call around to try to find a “rehabilitator” who would take them. I never heard back from them.

At first, I thought there were just two or three of the kits. I entertained the idea of feeding them until they were fully weaned because it seemed that they weren’t. I called my vet to see what I should do and got a Raccoon Milk Replacer formula for them because you’re not supposed to feed them cow’s milk.

Raccoon Milk Replacer Formula

12 oz of water

1 tsp of corn syrup

1 cup rice pablum

1 egg yolk

The picture above shows this first little guy that came out on his own managing to eat some of it. It was cool and rainy out at the time and as I started to pull more kits from under the boards, they came out wet, dirty and shivering. Info online suggested towels, blankets and hot water bottles. Here are two kits sleeping together on top of a towel-covered hot water bottle in a box.

By the end of that second day I’d pulled six kits out and put them in my wood box. All six curled up on the hot water bottle together. I tried to get formula in each of them with varying success but it was clear they weren’t able to eat on their own. I was feeling pretty distressed because I knew I didn’t want to raise them, it would be a full-time job. And my friend Shelly, the “rehabilitator” I mentioned earlier, said if I raised them I needed to be prepared for them to stick around my yard acting like pets for up to two years,  at which time they’d start to mate and turn vicious. So what to do?

My wood box turned into a raccoon cage.

I got the name and number of the local guy who deals with nuisance animals for the county and called him. He is an experienced trapper as well, making his living off of trapping animals in the winter. He’d also been part of a group that had built a new animal shelter in the county. I liked him and trusted his knowledge. He talked to me about humane ways of dealing with wild animals and said that it would not be humane for me to transport the kits somewhere else and let them go (which I considered doing). He said they would suffer slow deaths from starvation or predators. He also told me that it’s illegal to transport raccoons further than 1 km because studies show that a raccoon’s range is that distance. If they are moved outside their typical range, they are often killed either by other, territorial, raccoons or by diseases they don’t have immunity to. He helped me think through this dilemma, and my options, which were: commit 100% to saving them and rearing them, or kill them humanely. It was a hard choice to make but I knew I didn’t have it in me to raise six raccoons. In the end, I asked him to come get them.

The very next day as I was pulling out of my driveway, I saw to my surprise, raccoon kit #7 waddling through the grass at the edge of the yard. I got out of the car and went up to him but he arched his back and hissed at me. I later saw him back in the trees and when I went toward him he scurried up one of them. I don’t know if he managed to survive, but he may very well be out there still.

Leave a Reply