December Baby Raccoon

December Baby Raccoon

You’ve likely seen mention of “Wildlife Baby Season” in WildCare emails and stories, referring to the months between about March and August when weather is milder, days are longer, natural food sources are more abundant, and most wild animals are working on raising their young.

WildCare admits about 80% of our annual patients during these busy months. Suffice to say we were more than a little surprised when a rescuer brought in an infant raccoon halfway through December!

This little one weighed in at a mere 426 grams, meaning she was much too young to be on her own.

Over the course of two days, workers at a construction site had watched the mother raccoon move three other siblings to a new (unknown because they didn't follow her) location.  They assumed that was all when they didn't see her again, but then this little one came crawling out around day three, shaky and crying for her mom. For whatever reason,  the mother raccoon hadn't come back for the last baby.

The construction workers knew this little raccoon had been alone without mom feeding her for those three days, so they brought her to WildCare. Obviously a reunite wasn't possible because the mother had clearly left that den site, and no one knew where the new den was located.

Notes on this young raccoon's intake say that she was thin, dehydrated, and cool, but not extremely hypothermic, which was good news. 

Because she had been alone in a cold den for at least a couple of days, the first step in her care was to gently raise her body temperature using dry, heated towels. Baby animals at this age are not yet able to fully regulate their own body temperature, so this, plus her small size and lack of thick fur put this baby at risk of severe hypothermia in cold, wet, rainy December.

Imagine how good that soothing warmth must have felt to the chilled and frightened baby!

Our team's next step was to rehydrate her with subcutaneous fluids and a warmed electrolyte solution given through a nipple.

At this age, baby raccoons and many other mammal species spend most of their time safe and cozy in their mother's den.

Many people don't know that very young mammals like these raccoons (and other mammals like puppies and kittens) are born not yet able to urinate and defecate on their own. Instead, their mother must lick them to stimulate urination and defecation, which helps keep the den clean and sanitary, and also triggers a suckling response for these nursing babies.

In the Wildlife Hospital, a warm cloth provides the same stimulation. Watch the video below and be sure to turn up the volume to hear the purring of this little raccoon as Med Staff stimulates her to urinate.

When raising orphaned wildlife in managed care, our #1 priority, after making sure they're healthy, is ensuring that they don’t habituate to humans so that they grow up ready for life in the wild. One of the major ways we achieve this is to always raise babies with conspecifics: others like themselves to learn from as they grow together.

Because it isn’t typical for raccoons to be breeding this late in the year, the few juvenile raccoons WildCare still has in care are many months older than this baby, and are already scheduled to be released!

We reached out to all neighboring wildlife hospitals but we were unsurprised that no one had another nursing baby raccoon with which we could pair ours.

We then contacted our State Coordinator at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and requested they put out a call to wildlife hospitals across the entire state, hoping that maybe, just maybe, down south where it's warmer, they might still have babies.

As luck would have it, San Diego Humane Society’s Ramona Wildlife Center had a group of three similarly aged kits in care with their Project Wildlife team, and they were willing to add this one to the group.

Through a coordinated effort between a dedicated member of WildCare's Raccoon Team and an official from DFW, this little raccoon took a road trip, and was shuttled over 500 miles for the invaluable opportunity to grow up with raccoon siblings.

You can see our little orphan nervously meeting her new siblings for the first time in this photo.

As of this writing, the young raccoons have fully integrated our baby into their play group, and she's thriving in care.

The new family will be raised together and released back to the wild once they’re old enough (and wild enough!)… just in time for NEXT baby season to begin again!