First, we are very sorry to hear that this happened. Toronto Wildlife Centre receives so many calls every year about baby raccoons who’ve been taken out of their den and left in a box in the local park. The people who took them out probably thought they were doing the right thing. Unfortunately the babies are much too young to care for themselves. Even if their mother was relocated with them, she will probably abandon the babies when faced with a new, unfamiliar territory. Because of government rules requiring an accurate point of origin for all wild animals in rehabilitation, finding help for them may be difficult.
Get the baby raccoon contained
To keep the baby raccoon safe while you figure out how to help it, get it contained.
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 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.
Could mom still be nearby?
There is a possibility that these babies’ den was in the park, and they fell out or otherwise got separated from their mother. Maybe a passerby contained them in the box to give her a chance to come back for them. Especially given the limited resources available for baby raccoons, it is definitely worth leaving them out for one night in case their mother is looking for them.
Reuniting the raccoon with its mother
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.
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.
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.