Orphan Raccoon?

Baby raccoons are called kits.

Let’s say you are cleaning out your attic, or cutting down that old tree in the backyard. How about finally getting to that abandoned car from out of the backyard. In the middle of all the clean up out pop 5 baby raccoons. Now what do you do? The first thing to do is look quickly to see where the mother is. She might be right there! Back away slowly and stay away from the area until she retrieves all her babies. This can take some time. She might just put them somewhere nearby temporarily while she goes off looking for a new home. Her temporary spot just might not be what you had in mind. Please be patient. She might even stay with them until dusk before she even tries to relocate. You do not want to scare her off, she might not come back. Let Mom do her job.

Let’s first determine if they are real orphans.

I’m an orphan if…

  • I’m next to my dead mother.
  • I’m dehydrated and starving (I will be screaming).
  • I’m injured. (Do you see blood?)
  • There are a lot of fly eggs on me.
  • I’m walking right up to you.
  • The family pet brings me home.

Reasons why we find raccoon kits on the ground:

  • Tree work.
  • Bad weather.
  • While playing with their siblings, one or more fell out of the nest.
  • They have reached their exploring stage. They usually don’t go far from the nest, but some do.
  • Mom has died and the babies are trying to look for food on their own.
  • Mom knows that the baby is sick and cannot take care of it.

Some suggestions that you could do:

  • Please put the kits in a small cardboard box, deep enough so that the kits cannot climb out. Pad the box with the surrounding leaf litter from the ground or any type of soft bedding, such as an old sweatshirt or several t-shirts, so they have something to snuggle in it and it will also help keep them warm. A mother will not take back a cold baby.
  • Place the box with the kits near where or as close as possible to their original nest was, or at least in the path of Mom’s normal route.
  • Loosely cover the flaps on the outside of the box to help protect the kits. A mother raccoon will have no problem opening the box to get her kits.Note: A mother raccoon can take the whole night to find or relocate her family. Please be patient. If all the kits are still in the box the following day, please call a rehabilitator. There are many scenarios that are dependent upon how the kits were first found. It’s easier for us to speak with the finder directly to see if they are real orphans.If, the following morning, some of the kits were taken, she might be back for the rest. If the kits are still in the box the second day, chances are she will not be taking the whole family. Please call. Again, there might be special circumstances to explain why she didn’t come back and we might be able to help further to reunite the family.
  • Make sure to keep children and pets away from the area where you have placed the kits. Also, it would be helpful to keep your yard lights off near the box as light only deters the mother.
  • One thing to note is that babies who have been missing their Mom for only a few hours rather than days will be more wary and not likely to approach people, since they will not yet be desperate. If the kit is trying to follow you, then chances are it has been without its Mom for a while and should come into rehab.

Like any good Mom, raccoons want to raise their kits. Human scent is not a deterrent to keep the Mom away. But humans can be a deterrent if Mom feels that they are too close retrieve her babies. Raccoons are one of Connecticut’s mammals that are on top of the food chain (especially in cities) and they are not too afraid of humans. They just want a safe warm place to raise their kits. But if you leave food outside for your pet and/or do not secure your garbage cans, raccoons find an easy meal and will take full advantage of it. Wouldn’t you? Free food! You might want to think about putting chimney caps on your chimney. Raccoons, squirrels and birds find this to be a safe, warm place to raise a family. Please see “Living with Wildlife” for more ideas on what we can do to keep them wild and outside our homes.