Raccoons are easily distinguished from a young age by their grey-brown fur, characteristic black “mask” on their face, and striped tail. Even at birth, there is a dark area over their eyes where the mask will soon appear.
Once you know you have found a raccoon, it is important to figure out whether it is a baby raccoon or a juvenile raccoon (young adult). Their age makes a difference in the kind of help they may need.
Have I found a baby raccoon or a juvenile raccoon?
If the raccoon is at least as big as football (not including the tail), it can be considered a juvenile. If it is smaller than a football, it should be considered a baby.
Juvenile and adult raccoons
If the raccoon you have found is with others of the same size, or is smaller than an adult cat, it is probably a juvenile (young adult). Between October and May raccoons of this size are likely old enough to be out on their own, but if it is earlier in the season they may still need help.
How to tell if a juvenile raccoon needs help
To find out whether a young raccoon needs help, answer the following questions:
- Does it seem coordinated and able to climb well?
- Is it avoiding people, or trying to get away when you approach it?
- Is it quiet (not crying or mewling)?
If the answer to any of these questions is NO, you should contact a wildlife rehabilitator to get further advice.
If you answered YES to all of these questions, the raccoon is likely old enough to be away from its mother. If possible, keep an eye on the raccoon from a distance for the next few days – if it shows any sign of weakness, or begins to approach people, you should contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.
In the meantime, do not feed the raccoon: if it is healthy and old enough to be on its own, it will be able to find food on its own. Habituating raccoons to human food leads to conflict behaviours, which may result in the raccoon being harmed by less friendly people later in life. If the raccoon does need help or is too young to be on its own, it can be difficult to tell whether or not it’s thriving if it is being sustained by human feeding.
How to tell if an adult raccoon needs help
Sometimes small adult raccoons act strangely because of illness or injury, and are then mistaken for babies. If the raccoon is at least as big as an adult cat, you should consider it an adult and assess its behaviour accordingly: Click here to find out whether an adult raccoon needs help.