First, get the baby raccoon contained

To keep the baby raccoon safe while you figure out how to help it, get it contained.

Smaller babies

Put the baby in a small cardboard box with a soft towel or t-shirt. Even on a warm day small babies can get cold, so give it a heat source:

  • a clean sock filled with dry, uncooked rice, and microwaved for one minute
  • a plastic bottle from the recycling bin filled with hot tap water
  • an electric heating pad set to “LOW” and placed under half of the box.

Larger babies

Larger babies can be lured into a cat or dog crate, or place a cardboard box or laundry basket over top of them. Put something heavy on top of the container to keep them in one place.

Is the baby raccoon injured?

A baby raccoon with any of the following signs is injured or orphaned and needs medical attention:

  • There are obvious wounds or blood on its body
  • There are lots of bugs or insects crawling all over it
  • It has been crying non-stop for over 24 hours (occasional, intermittent crying is normal)

Keep the baby warm, dark, and quiet, don’t give it any food or water, and contact a wildlife rehabilitator right away.

Reuniting the raccoon with its mother

Sometimes baby raccoons can fall out of a nest or get separated from their mother. If the baby isn’t injured, getting it back to its mom is the best possible option. Raccoons are excellent mothers and will come back for their babies if given a chance! Raccoon moms will also take much better care of their babies than any human possibly could.

Place the box with the raccoon (and a heat source) as close as possible to where the raccoon was found. If there is a tree nearby, put it at the base of the tree. Raccoons don’t always nest in trees, so next to a house or building will work too.

Be patient

A baby raccoon should be left out for one whole overnight period to see if its mother will come back — raccoons are nocturnal, and most likely to come looking for their babies at night. Make sure to KEEP IT WARM – refresh the heat source as needed.

Don’t give the baby anything to eat or drink. Besides causing other potential problems, we want  the baby to be hungry. If it’s hungry, it will cry, and its cries will call its mother.

What if it’s a really busy area?

In high traffic areas, you can put a sign on the box to let other people know that the raccoon is waiting for its mother. Here’s one you can print off. In very busy areas, it may make more sense to bring the baby inside and keep it somewhere dark and quiet for the day. As soon as the sun starts to set and traffic dies down, get it outside right away. No matter what, make sure to leave baby raccoons out for their mother for at least one whole overnight period.

What if the baby keeps crawling out of the box?

Older baby raccoons may not stay in the box you put them in. For these babies, cover them with an upside-down laundry basket. Put a brick on top of the laundry basket to keep it in place. The mother raccoon will have no trouble flipping the basket over to get her baby out.

What if it’s raining?

If it’s raining lightly, cover half of the box with a piece of cardboard. If it’s raining hard, bring the baby inside and keep it dark and quiet and warm. Put it back outside as soon as the weather clears up a bit. A mother raccoon won’t be looking for her babies during a heavy rain.

What if it’s during the day?

If you found the baby during the day, put it back out for its mother right away – although raccoons are nocturnal, mothers will still look for their babies during the day. They’re good moms. In very busy high-traffic areas, it may make more sense to bring the baby inside and keep it somewhere dark and quiet. As soon as the sun starts to set and traffic dies down, get it outside right away. No matter what, make sure to leave baby raccoons out for their mother for at least one whole overnight period.

MYTH! If you touch a baby raccoon, its mother will NOT abandon it. Raccoons are excellent moms. All they want is their baby back.

Mom didn’t come back

If you’ve kept the baby warm and waited at least one whole overnight period, the baby is probably orphaned. Mother raccoons almost never abandon their babies, but sometimes something happens to mom and she can’t make it back.

Make sure the baby is contained and has a heat source, don’t give it any food or water, and contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.

Temporary care

While you are waiting to hear back from a wildlife rehabilitator, keep the baby raccoon contained in a dark, quiet place. Make sure it has a heat source. Don’t give it any food or water until you have spoken to a rehabilitator. Further temporary care instructions can be found here.