If you find a baby raccoon…

Young raccoons have the best chance of survival when cared for by their mothers.

A baby raccoon peeks out from its den in a tree cavity

Raccoons are found throughout Virginia, living in a variety of habitats including forests, marshes, agricultural areas, and urban environments near human development. Raccoons make their dens in tree cavities, abandoned fox or woodchuck burrows, brush piles, chimneys, attics, sheds, or other man-made structures. Breeding season for raccoons is from January to March, with young raccoons born in April and May.  While raccoons typically only have one litter/year, late or second litters may be born in late summer or early fall. The average litter size is three to five raccoon kits, but larger litters may be prevalent in more urbanized areas with readily available food sources. Raccoons are born with their eyes closed and develop their well-known dark “mask” by the end of their first week. 

Baby raccoons are most commonly encountered when their mother is in the process of moving them to a different den location after their first month of life. When her kits are between 5-8 weeks old, mother raccoons move their babies to a den site closer to the ground and her kits will begin to accompany her on foraging trips shortly after. Mom can and will move her young earlier if the den has been disturbed or soiled.

By about three months of age, babies are weaned and forage independently. Many stay in family groups until fall and disperse as late as the following spring. Independent juveniles who are just beginning to explore their new surroundings tend to come into conflict with people. Visit our Raccoons as Neighbors page for more information on navigating common conflicts with people. 

If you find a baby raccoon, do any of the following apply?

  • A baby raccoon is held in a thick leather gloved hand.The baby has flies surrounding it or is covered in fly eggs. These usually look like very tiny grains of rice around the face and under the tail.
  • It has an obvious injury or deformity.
  • The baby is crying constantly, for several hours at a time.
  • It was in a dog or cat's mouth, even if no injuries were seen.
  • The baby is cold, wet, slow-moving, or not vocalizing when approached. Healthy baby raccoons are very noisy and should be chittering when disturbed.
  • A very tiny baby, with its eyes still closed and limited mobility, has been seen outside the den for multiple hours without an adult present.
  • It is known with absolute certainty that the mother is deceased or has been illegally relocated.

If YES, the raccoon is likely injured or orphaned. Contact your nearest permitted wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian for treatment. Never give food or water to injured or orphaned raccoons. Inappropriate food or feeding techniques can lead to sickness or death; additionally, hand-feeding young raccoons may qualify as a potential exposure since they are high-risk rabies species.

If NO, attempts to reunite the baby with its mother should be made. 

Always avoid handling raccoons directly; if you must pick up a baby raccoon to contain it, always wear both latex/medical and leather gloves, even with very young kits. Raccoons are high-risk rabies species in Virginia; health departments will need to test raccoons – even very young kits – for rabies if exposure occurs. 

Is the baby raccoon more than 10 inches long and mobile?

If YES, place a laundry basket over top of the baby. While this strategy doesn’t work for most wildlife species, raccoons can manipulate objects well, and the mother raccoon should be able to lift or tip the basket over so she can remove her baby. Raccoons are primarily nocturnal, so it’s more likely that reuniting with the mother will happen overnight. If the baby is still in the same location by the following morning, safely contain the baby and contact the nearest wildlife rehabilitator.

A baby raccoon peeks out of a yellow cardboard box.If NO, wearing protective gloves, place the baby in a bucket or box with a supplemental heat source. Place a warm towel around the baby and leave overnight in a safe location, a few feet from where it was found. Keep domestic pets away from the area and leave for up to 12 hours, as long as the baby is still alert, vocal, and active. If the baby raccoon is still in the container after the opportunity to reunite with its mother, contact a permitted wildlife rehabilitator.

Remember, never attempt to feed the baby raccoon. A hungry baby will vocalize, which will help get the attention of their mother. 

Each animal's nutritional, housing, and handling requirements are very specific and must be met if they have any chance of survival. Inappropriate food or feeding techniques can lead to sickness or death. Raising a wild mammal in captivity is illegal unless you have a state permit. For information on how you can become a permitted wildlife rehabilitator, visit our Wildlife Care Academy and contact the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources or your state's wildlife agency.