A raccoon is a RABIES VECTOR SPECIES!
If you have found an orphaned or injured raccoon, you must be informed that RABIES in Texas is an ongoing state health emergency.
It is illegal for a person to keep as a “Pet,” possess, or transport certain animals that are high risk for transmitting rabies, including raccoons, foxes, skunks, bats and coyotes. A violation of this law is a Class C misdemeanor.
Until you are able to contact and place the orphan with a permitted Wildlife Rehabilitator, you can follow these CARE INSTRUCTIONS to give the infant the best chance for survival.
HEAT & BEDDING: The very FIRST thing the orphaned raccoon kit will need is an external heat source. Infants younger than 5 weeks do not produce their own body heat to thermo-regulate. They need a heating pad, set on LOW setting. Place a bath towel, folded to make about a 1 to 1 1/2 inch thickness and put it on the heating pad. Now, place a box on top of the towel. Place your babies into a soft cloth such as an old flannel shirt, or old sweatshirt or sweatpants. Place the infant, nestled in the cloth, down into the box. That way, a gradual heat will come up through the layers and warm the infant, but not make them too hot.
HOW OLD IS THE RACCOON? A 100-gram or less - baby is a week or less old: very light hair fuzz, 4 ½ -6” nose-end of tail, eyes closed, ears unopened, crawls spread-legged.
A 250 gram baby is about 2 ½ weeks old (about 8 ½ long)
A 350 gram baby is about 3 ½ weeks old (about 10 “ long) (eyes open 2 ½-3 wks))
A 550 gram baby is about 5 ½ weeks old (about 12-14” long) (ears open about 4wks) (begin to walk)
A 950 gram baby is about 9 ½ weeks old (eating solid foods, very active and independent) A 1500- 2000 gram baby (time to start giving it the skills it will need for release)
RACCOON DEVELOPMENT: Raccoon kits or cubs are born very lightly furred, with a faint mask. They typically weigh three to five ounces and 4-6 inches long with 2-2 1/4" tail. Pigmented tail rings will be present or will appear at about one week of age. Their eyes are closed and so are their ears, which are pressed tightly forward to the head. The head seems large compared to the rest of the body. When hungry, cold, or not in contact with another warm body, the babies will start chattering, whine or twitter like birds. They can crawl in a spider-like fashion with all four legs in extension, but cannot climb or stand and support their full weight. The eyes open at about two to three weeks, the ears shortly thereafter. They now average 7-10" long. They will be VERY vocal at this age. They will churr, growl, hiss, and give an alarm snort. By 4 weeks they are about 12-13" long. When five to six weeks old, most can walk, run, and climb very well. Seven-week-old babies will engage in active (and sometimes rough) fighting characterized by growling, squealing, biting, wrestling, and imitating adult defense postures. They remain in their birth den until they are about seven or eight weeks old, at which point their mother moves them to a series of alternate dens. After about eight to nine weeks of age they begin eating solid foods in the wild and by 10 weeks they travel with their mother. By four months old, they will be completely weaned and somewhat independent. Raccoon mothers with babies enjoy a privileged position in the raccoon hierarchy for as long as the babies remain with the mother. Other raccoons will defer to a female with babies in feeding situations. For rehabbers, the appropriate age for releasing hand-raised baby raccoons back into the wild is 16 to 24 weeks. This of course would be subject to the season of the year and the readiness of the animal. I prefer to wait until they are at least 20-24 weeks. At this age they are still young enough that there instincts take over and they become truly wild following their release.
HYPOTHERMIA: A raccoon's normal body temperature is 101-103°F. Warming chilled (hypothermic) babies is very important. Smaller orphaned babies often have subnormal body temperatures. This is because they have little hair, while their surface area is greater per gram of body weight and they lose heat faster. You must ensure that the baby's body core temperature is at an acceptable level before trying to feed it. Trying to feed a cold orphan may result in death. It is so easy to cook the babies; especially those so little or weak that they can't move to a temperature that is comfortable. Keep the raccoon in a warm, dark place until the baby has stabilized, WARM SLOWLY over several hours. Warming to fast WILL cause organ failure and they will die.
DEHYDRATION: Dehydration is very common in orphan raccoons. A baby raccoon that is 5% dehydrated needs to get about 4-5% of its body weight of balanced fluids over an 8-hour period. A good rehydrating solution can be made by mixing the following: 1 pint of boiled (or distilled) water - 1 teaspoon of sugar - 1/3 teaspoon of salt. You can also rehydrate dehydrated babies with warm warmed Lactated Ringer's Solution (LRS) if available, or diluted Pedialyte,
every hour or so for 3 or 4 feedings. NEVER FEED A COLD BABY -
BE SURE THEY ARE WARM (Body Temp 101F (38.3C) before you attempt to give them anything orally.
FEEDING: Once the baby is warm, calm and accepting the hydrating solution, you must start it on KMR (kitten milk replacement formula by PetAg) Infant Formula – KMR 1 Part Powder to 2 ¼ parts H20 (May vary H20 2 ½ to 3 parts - Depending on stool - Increase H20 for Constipation)
Use distilled/filtered water because some additives or purification chemicals in tap drinking water may endanger fragile orphaned wild animal babies.
If the babies are not fed properly as infants, they may develop metabolic bone disease resulting in a horrid, painful death once released.
Never give whole milk, raw eggs or honey to baby raccoons, as these could cause a deadly digestive bacterial infection. Keeping the baby hydrated and getting its electrolytes back in balance will suffice until it can be properly fed. Formula should be heated to body temperature before feeding (100-102F). You should feed it 5 times a day (that includes in the middle of the night) for the first four weeks. If it doesn't take to the bottle yet (animal nurser bottle, 4 ounce size, from a pet shop or a baby bottle with preemie nipple), Use a medication syringe and allow the baby to lick the formula off of the tip.
FEEDING SCHEDULE (APPROXIMATIONS)
Birth to 1 week: 4-6 cc every 2 hours and once through the night.
1-2 weeks: 6-8 cc every 2 hours and once through the night.
2-3 weeks: 15-30 cc every 3 hours.
3-4 weeks: 50-60 cc every 3-4 hours.
4-8 weeks: 60 cc every 4 hours.
HOW TO FEED: Use a baby bottle, warm the formula, and place the raccoon on its tummy. The raccoon will suck. You will have to clamp your hand firmly over its muzzle and rub its back to get the raccoon started. Make sure the hole in the nipple is not too large, as this will allow the raccoon to take too much formula. If this happens the raccoon will sneeze formula out of its nose – Stop feeding, turn upside down, gently rub its back, and gently wipe the excess formula from its nose. Repeat this for about 5 minutes or until the sneezing stops and breathing returns to normal. If severe this can cause immediate death or pneumonia on a long-term basis. To avoid this from occurring feed in a quiet room, go slowly and watch both the raccoon and the bottle. Feed the baby belly down on a towel or blanket on a counter top or on your lap; do not place it on its back, as this can cause aspiration leading to pneumonia and possible death. Don't overfeed! Raccoons will overeat when nursing. Overeating can cause bloat and/or colic resulting in death. Stop nursing the baby when it stops sucking vigorously, stops searching for the nipple or if its little belly feels full. It is better to feed more often than to overfeed. Baby raccoons can drink 1-5% of their body weight in cc’s at a feeding – better you stop before the animal is overfilled and refusing. Gently rubbing or scratching the back of the neck or lower back, where the body meets the tail, may stimulate it to nurse. After feeding is finished, wash its face well with a damp face cloth as the formula dries quickly and will cause fur loss.
You will have to burp the baby, by laying it over your shoulder or lap and gently patting the upper neck, and manually stimulate it to eliminate for another few weeks. Use a warm rough paper towel and gently swap or tap the genital area from front to back. Place a soft piece of material between you and the baby so that you don't get dirty. If diarrhea occurs, dilute the strength of the formula.
WEANING DIET: (6 to 8 Weeks) You should be feeding 4 times a day now.
Start to blend some Purina Puppy Chow into the milk formula and make the nipple hole larger.
Progress as follows:
90% Purina Puppy chow (and a SMALL amt of Kitten Chow)
10% Fruits, apples, grape, banana, berries, melons, Nuts, Cooked egg (Scrambled or hard boiled), Baby food chicken; progress to small pieces of chicken and other meats, raw vegetables, small mice, live fish, bugs, grasshoppers, worms.
TREATS (Sparingly) Fig Newton’s, cookies, wafers, raisins.
Once the baby is fully weaned (approximately 8-10 weeks), you should gradually work up from a soft gruel to a high quality dry dog and cat kibble as the main staple. To this, you can add whatever meals, snacks and treats you wish. Raccoons vary in their tastes for food, but few like carrots. Most will devour watermelons or uncooked corn on the cob, but do not do this if you want to release the baby in an area where corn or watermelons are grown. Dog biscuits and grapes can be useful bribes. (You may need to cut the grapes in half until the raccoons discover what they are.) Raccoons have a sweet-tooth and may love marshmallows, but use sweets sparingly. It will enjoy fishing and hunting for minnows and crickets, obtained from bait shops. This teaches valuable hunting skills. Raccoons also enjoy digging for grubs, nuts and berries. A raccoon will put anything it finds into its mouth and eats it if it tastes good. Introduce as many natural food items as possible. Raccoons have adaptable opportunistic dietary habits. You can obtain food from a live bait store like Gander Mountain.
LITTER BOX: Once a raccoon can walk, you can train it to use a litter-box. If you use a water bowl instead of a water bottle, the raccoon will eliminate in the water bowl. It will then "wash" its food in that same water. Remove the water bowl. Place a litter box in the enclosure. If you are still weaning the raccoon to solid food process, place a small tin with kitty litter next to the feeding area. If the raccoon starts to eliminate, immediately place it in the litter. This will help speed up the process and keep it from using its food bowl as a toilet. Raccoons will share a litter-box. They do not bury their feces, but may knock over the litter-box for fun. Place a piece of concrete under the litter to weigh it down.
Practice proper hygiene at all times, as raccoons pass harmful parasites through their stools. On KMR, a normal stool is golden brown, with the consistency of peanut butter. Promptly flush any fecal matter down the toilet and immediately practice proper hygiene. Once the baby feeds from a dish, this should no longer be necessary
WORM THE COON with Pyrantel Pamoate, orally at (5mg/pound)
or 11mg/kg. BE DILIGENT ABOUT WORMING. DO NOT MISS A SINGLE DOSE UNTIL RELEASE. Pyrantel pamoate is very low in toxicity because it is not absorbed from the intestine. It is sold under the trade names Nemex, NEMEX-2, and Strongid.
Give NEMEX-2 @ weeks 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, and then give 1 X monthly (Don’t be late)
250g (1/2 lb)
2.5cc (2 ½ cc)
Raccoons are the normal host for the parasitic roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis). The macaroni-size roundworm is 5-8” long and pointed at both ends. It lives in the intestinal tract. The eggs are sticky and have a very tough shell, which is very difficult to destroy. Children may accidentally eat raccoon parasite eggs clinging to leaves or outdoor objects and toys. The worm can pass to humans and other animals, causing a very rare disease called visceral larva migrans. The disease is spread through the eggs contained in the feces of an infected raccoon. When the eggs get into another species of animal, they hatch and get confused, as they wander aimlessly about in the body unsure where to go. It may end up in people's brains, eyes and other organs. This condition can cause death or paralysis depending on the location in the body and number of worms. You should use pyrantel pamoate against parasites in raccoons as pyrantel pamoate will kill the parasite in the raccoons' intestines. If you care for orphaned or injured raccoons practice common sense hygiene – the eggs have to get to your mouth, be inhaled from dry raccoon fecal matter or get onto your skin. You can never wash your hands too often, scrub too much or take too many sanitary precautions working with any wildlife – raccoons in particular. Prevention consists of never touching or inhaling raccoon feces. You should use rubber gloves and a mask when cleaning cages (or attics, etc), which have been occupied by raccoons. Bury or burning all feces, keep children and pets away from raccoon cages and enclosures and disinfect cages and enclosures between litters. Do not keep other animals in cages and nest boxes used for housing raccoons. Raccoons may have fecal matter on their paws and bodies, so take appropriate safeguards. When raccoons are taken into rehab, they should receive de-worming IMMEDIATELY.
PARASITES are common in and on raccoons. Fleas are common on urban raccoons, ticks on wild ones. At this age, they are best picked off with tweezers and dropped into a jar of rubbing alcohol (the tick that is). Don't squish ticks – they carry nasty diseases. Rubbing a piece of cotton moistened with puppy/kitten flea spray (pyrethrins w/ pipronyl butoxide) will kill or immobilize fleas, but won't have much effect on ticks. When you grasp a tick to pluck it off with tweezers, grasp the bleb of skin just ahead of the tick and the whole thing will come out. That bit of tissue will die anyway, and grasping a tick by its abdomen simply injects all the toxins and infections the ticks carry into the baby. You can give them an initial scrub/bath with Johnson's Baby Shampoo and then blow-dry them. The accepted dose for 1% ivomectin solution orally is 200mcg/kg (which works out to about 0.1ml/10 lbs, some use half this dose).Others use fenbendazole (Panacur) @ 50mg/kg for three successive days. None of these products are approved for this use and there are no medicines, other than oral rabies vaccine, that have been tested or approved for use on raccoons.
DISEASE: Raccoons are considered a RABIES VECTOR SPECIES. They are also very susceptible to distemper. You may want to consider having the raccoon(s) vaccinated for distemper as well as against rabies. If you are concerned about rabies, you may want to consider having a pre-exposure vaccine for anyone who will be handling the animals-call your vet for further information. Furthermore, with all animals, you should always take precautions to avoid being bitten while you are handling the animal.
Pneumonia can be a real health threat in orphaned raccoons. An early sign of Pneumonia/Severe Upper Respiratory Infection is loss of appetite. If a coon refuses to eat, WATCH CLOSELY. Be prepared to start antibiotics
VACCINES that have been safely used for raccoons include:
Duramune 5 Way (Ft. Dodge) Fervac-V (United Vaccine Mfg) Recombiteck C-4 (Rhone-Merieux, Distemink
(United Vaccine) Fel-o-vax LVKIII (Ft. Dodge) or Felocell CVR (SmithKline Beecham) are said to be effective. Meriel's Pur Vac ferret canine distemper vaccine has also been used. FEL-O-VAX PCT-(Feline) (Covers several Raccoon Diseases). Best for use against distemper, GALAXY-D (Canine) DISTEMPER Vaccine.
HOUSING In Stages:
Up to 2 Weeks Old – Small baby carrier/crate/box with old towels/linens in the box, and a stuffed animal for a lone coon.
MUST SUPPLY EXTERNAL HEAT SOURCE AT THIS AGE – Heating Pad on LOW Setting UNDER box.
2 Wks to 7 Wks – Bathtub size crate or similar type enclose lined with old towels/linens. Heating pad under linens in one corner, or you can purchase
a portable SnuggleSafe online for up to 12 hours of heat. Tree stumps in
corners, connecting log(s).
7 Wks to 9 Wks – Cage/Enclosure the size of a large birdhouse, with hammocks and limbs to climb on. Hang small coop cups on cage walls for food/water.
If outside temp is ABOVE 75 degrees At Night and babies have had 1st set of immunizations, this cage can be moved into the final release pen.
9 Wks to 11 Wks – Final Release Pen – At Least a 8’ X 8’ pen/enclosure with small pool and nest box(s). MUST BE ESCAPE PROOF top to bottom. Top of cage must be partially covered to protect from rain/sun overexposure.
A tarp works well here. Larger coop cups for dog/cat food mixture and fruit.
Insects and chicken necks, backs, gizzards (pressure cooked to soften bones)
should be a part of diet at this age. Hollow logs are fun to play in when you can find them, tall tree limbs and connecting logs to encourage climbing skills.
Use mulch or shavings on floor of cage for easier clean-up.
They will need tree(s), child's wading pool, various climbing items and other toys, feeders, and wooden boxes for beds. They will stay in this type of enclosure until their final release. They should be released in an area with feeders that are regularly restocked until you are sure they no longer need them. You can use a smaller enclosure with just branches, toys, their food bowl, litter box and bed (animal carrier), if you can take them into the woods each day when they are about 10 weeks old.
IMPRINTING AND OTHER PROBLEMS: Bottle feeding will make raccoons bond with you, but if they are being rehabbed with littermates they do not imprint as heavily on their human surrogate mother as a single orphaned one would. As they grow, they will prefer the company of their littermates, rather than you. You shouldn't raise your raccoon by itself, as it may attach itself to humans and avoid contact with raccoons. Raise it in groups of its own kind, so that it may develop normal socialization skills. Wildlife orphans raised together teach each other and mature more quickly and more naturally. When release time comes, they will have the comfort and security of each other and not be ‘out there' alone.
You may show physical affection to nursing raccoons. If the raccoon is handled from an early age, it will help make it more sociable and less prone to bite. After they are weaned, you should start distancing yourself from them, to break the human bond. You should also start limiting their human contact to just yourself. As they get older they will get quite playful, which increases the chances of your being bit, especially if the raccoon feels threatened. Part of growing and maturing is rough-housing, biting, scratching and playing with other raccoons. Growing raccoon kits can bite, nip, scratch and destroy anything in sight. Use precaution and heavy gloves and make it clear that they must not be rough with you. Sharply say "NO" and growl or hiss at them. If they are by you at the time, gently shake the scuff of their neck while you do this. The scuff of the neck works well with raccoons - their mothers carry them by it, shake them by it and will pin them down by it when they really tick mom off. You grab just skin and fur. They can't turn their head around enough to bite you and if you pick them up that way they usually just hang there quite docile (must be instinctive.) Do not try this with wild or adult raccoons.
PREPARING THE RACCOON FOR RELEASE: I like to fatten up my babies for a week or two before release You will begin by taking the babies for walks, allow them to climb trees while you wait patiently at the bottom for them to tire and come back down (they will come back down!) You must teach them how to find food on their own and the manners and protocol they must know to survive in the wild. Without these skills, the raccoons will not be able to survive in the wild. Please note that a raccoon can't go back to wild living if it becomes used to the pet life, so please make sure that you distance yourself from the juvenile raccoon. At about 10 weeks of age, start taking the raccoons for daily excursions. At this age, they should follow you, but as they get older the bravest of a litter can lead the others quickly astray. The raccoons will enjoy playing in a wheel barrel filled with water. If you place minnows in the barrel, this will help the raccoons learn to fish. The raccoons will also rummage for food in leaves on the ground. You can lead the raccoons to smaller isolated trees, where they can be more easily retrieved or coaxed down with a bribe. The first couple of times, they may be a little leery and you might have to help them up and down. After that, they discover all the good things about trees (food, shelter, fun) and you'll find them making a run for the trees.
You can then start to let them out by themselves, gradually building up from a few hours each day, to half a day, to overnight for a day or more at a time. Each time they visit their food bowl less and less, sustaining themselves on nature's offerings instead, and it becomes harder and harder to coax them to you. They may become almost nocturnal. Then you can release them into non-hunting areas in the areas where they were born. You may leave food and check back, but they will not need any more help if they have successfully returned to the wild.
WHEN TO RELEASE If born in early spring (March to beginning of April), the raccoons may be ready for release by late August, if they are about 15lbs and wild they can be given a “soft” release from their cage. Otherwise the raccoons will not be ready to be released until the following spring, no earlier than mid May.