RAISING BABY BANDITS
Orphaned wildlife tend to knock more than once on the door of a kind- hearted person.
Click the ark to see what vaccinations raccoon-like animals might require
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WAIT! Please Read All The Good Reasons Not To Do This Given at the Very End of This Article
Ron Hines DVM PhD
Lots of my articles are plagiarized and altered on the web to market products and services. There are never ads running or anything for sale with my real articles. Try to stay with the ones with http://www.2ndchance.info/ in the URL box or find all my articles at ACC.htm.
Well, How Old Is This Baby Raccoon Anyway?
Ages in order clockwise: 4 weeks, 5weeks, 6 weeks, 7 weeks, 8weeks, 28wks.
You can guesstimate that:
A 100-gram or less baby is a week or less old (very light hair fuzz)
(4 ½ -6” nose-end of tail) (Eyes closed, ears
A 350 gram baby is about 3 ½ weeks old (about 10 “ long) (eyes open 2 ½-3 wks)
A 550 gram baby is about 5 ½ weeks old (about 12-14” long) (ears open about 4wks) (begin to walk)
A 950 gram baby is about 9 ½ weeks old (eating solid foods, very active and independent)
A 1500- 2000 gram baby ( time to have started giving it the skills it
will need for release*)
I deal with urban raccoons, I might consider
Dehydration is very common in orphan raccoons when they are first found. A baby raccoon that is 5% dehydrated needs to get about 4-5% of its body weight of balanced fluids injected over an 8-hour period I give the fluids by injection to all but the smallest subcutaneously. With great care and sterility fluids can be given intraperitoneally (through the skin of the tummy) if you don’t think the baby will live much longer. Five percent dehydration is very common in orphan babies. The physical signs that you will see are easily overlooked. The skin is slightly doughy; the mouth may be dry and the baby a bit listless. A baby that is about 8% dehydrated will have definitely doughy (skin doesn’t spring back) skin, its eyes will be a bit sunken and its body cool to the touch. If dehydration has reached 10%, the raccoon will be in a stupor (semi-coma) and cold. They are rarely alive if they are more than 13% dehydrated and if they are, they really need a catheter placed in a vein – something for a Vet, O.R. nurse, vet-tech or the very very brave and reckless. Giving these infants a Pedialyte-like liquid by oral tube can be sufficient if the dehydration is not severe – but when severely dehydrated, the raccoon will not absorb fluids through its stomach and intestine.
Warming chilled (hypothermic) babies is very important. Particularly smaller babies tend to be brought to me with subnormal body temperatures. This is because they have little hair but more so because their surface area is greater per gram of body weight and they loose heat faster. This goes with any animal or human infant. After I have given dehydrated small babies warm, subcutaneous fluid, I like to place them on a hot water bottle or a 3M ColdHot Pack that hospitals use. Heat lamps and heating pads are very tricky – it is so easy to cook the babies; especially those so little or weak that they can’t move to a temperature that is comfortable. Once a raccoon is about 500-6000 grams, if it is chipper, it wild find its own comfort gradient. One can then take a 1-2 quart tin can and put a 40watt light bulb in it as a surrogate mother. Home Depot has an ivory-colored Bakelite fitting in which a bulb screws in one end and an extension cord plugs to the other. I have seen them at Wal-Mart as well. If you wrap the can in a soft material – be sure it is non-flammable and will not give off toxic fumes. Since I was never really sure what fake fur was made of and couldn’t clean it satisfactorily anyway, I personally don’t wrap the can in anything. Again, this gizmo only works for active, motile babies. I try to slowly bring their body temperatures up to 100F(37.8C) before I attempt to give them anything orally. The subcutaneous fluids will tide them over. A normal unstressed, adult raccoon’s body temperature is about 102.8 F (39.3C). I only use objects and cloth in raccoon cages that I can bag and dispose of. Putting stuff through the washer just increases the hazards of disease.
Parasites are common in and on raccoons. Fleas are common on urban raccoons, ticks on wild ones. At this age, they are best picked off with tweezers and dropped into a jar of rubbing alcohol (the tick, that is). Don’t squish ticks – they carry nasty diseases. Rubbing a pledget of cotton moistened with puppy/kitten flea spray (pyrethrins w/ pipronyl butoxide) will kill or immobilize fleas but it won’t have much effect on ticks. When you grasp a tick to pluck it off with tweezers, grasp the bleb of skin just ahead of the tick and the whole thing will come out. That bit of tissue will die anyway, and grasping a tick by its abdomen simply injects all the toxins and infections the ticks carry into the baby. I worm the baby with pyrantel pamoate, orally at 11mg/kg (5mg/pound) and do this every 3 days for approximately 3 weeks and then monthly. Pyrantel pamoate is very low in toxicity because it is not absorbed from the intestine. It is sold under the trade names Nemex and Strongid and also for pinworms in children. I also give them repetitive oral doses of Oxyfedazole (Ft. Dodge’s Synanthic 18.5% paste at 4.5mg/1000grams of raccoon which works out to about 0.1ml per ten pounds). I also give them a good scrubbing with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and blow-dry them every week. The accepted dose for 1% ivomectin solution orally is 200mcg/kg (which works out to about 0.1ml/10 lbs, some use half this dose).Others use fenbendazole (Panacur) @ 50mg/kg for three successive days. I AM NOT SUGGESTING YOU DO THIS! NONE OF THESE PRODUCTS ARE APPROVED FOR THIS USE! THERE ARE NO MEDICINES, OTHER THAN ORAL RABIES VACCINE, THAT HAVE BEEN TESTED OR APPROVED FOR USE IN RACCOONS!
What About This Baylisascaris Worm Thing ?
For the record, raccoons are Procyon lotor in Latin and Baylisascaris procyonis is a macaroni-size roundworm, 5-8” long and pointed at both ends that lives in the intestinal tract of raccoons and sometimes invades the brains of other animals - including man. You can read all about that parasite on my website here. Chiefly because of this parasite, public health officials are very opposed to any contact whatsoever between humans and raccoons. You can read their thoughts here. If you are only interested in eliminating the worm, you can read about the drugs that are effective in doing so here.
Baylisascaris, in moderate numbers, is harmless to raccoons but it is very dangerous to other mammals, including humans. Wood rats and other small mammals that raccoons normally feed upon, often die or become ill due to the larva of this parasite. People become infected when the worm's tiny eggs, found in soil contaminated with raccoon feces, are accidentally eaten.
In North America, the disease in people is called visceral or neural larval migrans. Visceral larva migrans also occurs when the eggs of dog nematodes are accidentally eaten by humans. However, when a raccoon is the source. the infection often centers in the brain. Some also call this a verminous encephalitis. I personally know of no wildlife rehabilitator who has caught this disease - but it could happen. One needs to be scrupulously clean when caring for these animals so as not contaminate yourself. The transfer is by fecal contamination from the raccoon to the person's mouth.
Checking a baby raccoon's stool samples with a microscope for baylisascaris eggs is not enough; it takes some time before these parasites begin to pass eggs in the stool of young raccoons. A better, more sensitive way is with a PCR test. If one is looking for the parasite in the other species including humans, in which it causes visceral larval migrans disease, it requires a specialized ELISA test.
Keep things in perspective. Between 1980 and 2011, there were less than 30 documented human cases of baylisascaris in humans in the whole United States with less than 5 known fatalities. In 2010 alone, 222 humans were struck by lightening in the United States with 44 fatalities. The key word is documented. We do not know how many cases of baylisascaris were missed or misdiagnosed and many of the folks who contracted baylisascaris were permanently crippled. It is a lot easier to know when you have been struck by lightening than when you may have a little worm migrating through your body. So, by all means, practice sterling (extraordinary) hygiene when exposing yourself to wild raccoons. I suggest having fecals and the PCR test run and worming all orphans or adult raccoons quite frequently.
How Do I Get The Baby To Defecate And Urinate ?
Most mammals are induced to do this by their mother’s licking of their genital area. A moistened pledget of cotton, massaged on this area will do the same thing. Once they are eating from a dish, this should no longer be necessary.
How Should I Feed This Baby ?
When you have a weak baby or lots and lots of babies to feed, I often feed them through a plastic tube attached to a syringe. I cannot explain to you in writing how this is done appropriately. You will have to watch an experienced person do it and learn that way or watch a video on the internet of how a puppy or kitten is tubefed. I suggest you actually be in the room observing an experienced person do it before trying because you can cause serious damage (aspiration pneumonia) if you do it wrong.
The diameter, length and flexibility of the tube are quite important. They are often rigged from IV tubing. If the end is placed in hot water, the PVC tube can be forced over a syringe tip. Be sure the formula is all the way to the end of the tube and that there are no air bubbles in the syringe or tube or you will inject air into the stomach. In small babies, it is easy to see the tube pass down alongside the trachea (windpipe) and know it is not going into the lungs – but you need to see it done and have someone guide you in your first attempts before you attempt it. Again, small amounts are best. You are always safer giving the formula in the mouth, drop by drop. Milk should never exit the nose. Massage and burp them after every feeding.
Use the same size bottle as you would for a kitten or puppy of equal size. You can get more general advice on that here.
Baby raccoons can drink 1-5% of their body weight in milliliters (ml=cc) at a feeding – better you stop before the animal is overfilled and refusing. The heavier the baby, the larger percent of its body weight it will drink at a feeding. Nothing is written in stone. Northern raccoons tend to be larger than southern raccoons, large litters lighter than small litters. Also, dehydrated babies weigh considerably less than they should. They need to be rehydrated with warm Lactated Ringer’s Solution 4 hours and then their body temperatures brought to 101F (38.3C) before you attempt to give them anything orally. A normal unstressed, adult raccoon’s body temperature is about 102.8 F (39.3C). Try to hold the baby in a semi-horizontal position – much as its natural mother would. Don’t feed them upside down.
From the first few days of life to 31 days, raccoon kits can be fed warm, reconstituted infant kitten (some use dog formula) milk replacer through a plastic 1ml pipette whose end has been smoothed over a lighter. This way, they ingest no air and you maintain flow rate with your thumb and index finger. The first few days I mix one part KMR powder with two to three parts of warm water, some use Nurturall, which I also sell. Slowly, over a few days, I increase the concentration of the formula to two parts powder and three parts water. At 200 grams or so, most do well on a kitten-nursing bottle. Poking the optimal number if holes in the latex cap is an art – if you’re a novice, buy several. I have seen many more intestinal and lung problems on babies fed too much formula than too little.
The secret of success is, frequent, moderate feedings – Just plump out their tummies a bit. I have never found it necessary to feed late at night – but some folks do a midnight feeding when the babies weigh less than 60 grams (two ounces). Mix the powdered formula, as you need it. If diarrhea occurs, dilute the strength of the formula and give them a few drops of infant colic relief remedy and feed them a bit less but a bit more frequently. Sour milk occurs amazingly rapidly. If you try to freeze the reconstituted formula or canned liquid formula it will thaw clumpy. It is probably unchanged nutritionally, but I don’t like the look of it. You can also spread problems from litter to litter if you reuse, formula and do not boil the bottles. I just put them submerged in a deep Pyrex bowel in the microwave for 4-5 minutes. If the bottle warps – you cooked it too long.
From 28 – 65 days – Waring-blend some Purina Puppy Chow into the milk formula 2/3 milk 1/3 formula and make the nipple hole larger. At a bit older than two months (some as early as a-month-and-a-half, I worm the baby with pyrantel pamoate, orally at 11mg/kg (5mg/pound) and do this every 3 days for approximately 3 weeks. Pyrantel pamoate is very low in toxicity because it is not absorbed from the intestine. It is sold under the trade names Nemex and Strongid and also for pinworms in children. At the same time, begin putting shallow, hard to tip or clip-on-the-cage bird dishes in its enclosure, filled with moistened puppy chow (I have always liked to use Purina Puppy Chow). Poke the baby’s face gently into the dish and smear some of the concoction on its palate (between it’s upper teeth) to give him the idea. You will need to use a moist terrycloth towel to clean their fur of caked-on food.
From 8-10 weeks of age, once they are eating the puppy chow well, I begin introducing the babies to tastes they will encounter in the wild and spend as little time with them as I can. Making pet’s of them is not a good idea at all if you have any intention of ever releasing them successfully. The foods you give them need to be the ones raccoons eat in your neck of the woods. Raccoons have the most adaptable opportunistic dietary habits of any North American animal I know of. Those living on my part of coastal Florida browse the beaches and salt flats for crabs, trapped or dead fish and anything else that washes in. Those in our local parks live of junk food scraps. In central Texas, mulberries, wild grape, lizards, snakes and wild raspberry, etc. form a large portion of their diet. Small rodents, immature or injured birds bird’s eggs, crayfish, earthworms, beetles, and small rodents are all appreciated when available. A live bait store is a good raccoon supermarket. Poking through the scat (fecal pellets) of wild raccoons in your area will give you an idea of what they are consuming – do it wearing gloves. Goldfish are fine, so are gambuzia minnows.
To get them to try new foods, offer the novel diets in the evening and don’t add the dog kibble until the next morning. Two or more babies seem to adapt to dietary changes faster than a single infant. I personally try to part company with the babies at this stage and let others raise them out because I am a vegetarian and squeamish about killing living things (please do not lecture me about this). Most rehabilitators just feed them the hopeless cases that come in, baby bunnies with severe wounds, birds that will never fly again, etc. but nothing overtly diseased - it’s a cruel world. Be sure they consume all of the prey, because at this age they are very susceptible to metabolic bone disease (rickets). This occurs when they just eat meat or fish flesh (high in phosphorus and low in calcium). I do not suggest you feed supermarket meats. If for some reason you do, you will need to sprinkle the meat with a pediatric or animal vitamin mix and a Calcium supplement or the raccoons will not thrive. They are particularly susceptible to vitamin B-1 (Thiamine deficiencies if dead or frozen fish is fed). Meat is also much too rich in protein and low in fiber to keep an animal healthy.
What Should I Do For An Injured Or Sick Adult Raccoons:
The safest thing to do (and quite often the only legal thing to do) is to telephone your local wildlife rehabiltator, animal control officer or game warden. Remember that in many portions of the United States, raccoons are a major transmitter of rabies. They will also bite hard if you try to handle adults or young-of-the-year animals. The majority of these sick or injured animals, when taken to a public official, will be put down (euthanized). You can call around but few veterinarians or zoos will want to get involved. First off, they would face potential legal liability and fines if they did and secondly, most know little about raccoons. There are vets with a special interest in wildlife medicine - but not very many.
I have found that surgical methods and pharmaceutical doses applicable to cats work well in raccoons. When I suture them, I do it such a way (subcuticular) that no superficial sutures are present. Most adult raccoons brought to me have either been hit by cars or attacked by dogs. Those hit by cars with minor injuries or limb fractures usually limp off into the undergrowth. So I see a preponderance of head injuries that resulted in mental disturbances. Most of these animals are unaware of their surroundings. Often, if they are rehydrated, tube-fed, given some IV steroids (SoluDeltaCortef) and simple cage rest they will recover in a few days. None I have nursed that were still spacey after a week or two ever recovered sufficiently to be released.
Three-legged urban raccoons missing a rear leg or have a single functional eye seem to do OK. I euthanize front limb injuries that I cannot repair or three-legged rural raccoons. Rabies can also present with these signs or no signs. The next most common reasons adults come in is due to infection with Canine Distemper. I have read that Feline Distemper will also affect raccoons but I have never seen a confirmed case of it. Early in canine distemper, the animals are weak, run fevers and have crusty eyes. Sometimes their nose is occluded as well. It progresses quite rapidly and there is no treatment for it. The animals develop fetid (odorous) diarrhea, cease eating and drinking and often tremble. Later they develop brain and spinal cord disease that is indistinguishable from rabies. It tends to occur in cycles when many animals are presented a few days apart. In central Texas, it was the primary reason raccoons were out in the daytime. The virus can only survive a few minutes or less when in a dry, sunny area but sneezes are very infectious to neighboring raccoons. Bleach, diluted 1 part to twenty parts of water kills the virus instantly unless there is a lot of organic material (dirt) present. I have used chicken embryo origin canine distemper vaccine successfully in raccoons. That is, it did not hurt them. I have not done experiments to see what level of immunity they developed.
What Type Of Housing And Caging Will I Need ?
When the babies are 8-10 weeks old, I place them in groups in elevated stainless steel primate cages in a shaded area with sheet metal above to keep them dry. I was lucky to find and re-weld these. I have always purchase what I needed to build good cages out of 1x1’ black vinyl-coated 18-guage galvanized mesh from Memphis Net and Twine Co. Call them 800 238-6380 and have them send you their catalog. They are not the only supplier - just be sure the sources you compare are quoting the same gauge and coatings. (Some give the gauge of the steel wire before it is dipped in vinyl and some after.)
The all vinyl meshes will not keep in a raccoon. I like the sleeve-style stainless steel (hog) rings when constructing cages – the galvanized ones rust quickly and look unsightly. I do not mix raccoons with disparities in size (no big ones with little ones). I feed and hose off the cages twice a day, quickly, and stay away from them as much as I can so they become wild and wary. An occasional blast of water is a good humane way to teach them to fear man. My cages are on 4 foot steel posts anchored in cement, so other animals and visiting raccoons cannot bother them.A large stainless steel dog-watering bowl with a brick in it works well for water. I wear no gloves and get bit frequently.
How Will I Eventually Release This Animal ?
When I lived in a wooded, rural area, I did what I do with all wildlife. When I think the animals can fend for themselves (about four to five months old) I fatten them up as much as I can. Then I leave the cage door open and continue to place food in it until the animals no longer return. Unfortunately, raccoons enjoy a free lunch and many return forever at mealtime. I once raised a barn owl that returned at dusk, every night for a year for his super. Now I (and most of you) are faced with a dilemma greater than raising the offspring – where can we release them where they will thrive? The simple fact of the matter is that any area in the United States that can support a given number of raccoons already has that number of raccoons living there. If you take them far away, you risk the possibility of spreading distemper or rabies – so don’t do that. You will have to come to terms with this dilemma on your own because I do not know the answer. I suppose the youngster might replace one killed on the road or an old one in its twilight years.
Some General Facts
I have maintained non-releasable raccoons for many years on Purina Dog Chow. Zoos often add a good quality vitamin/mineral supplement but I find this unnecessary and probably deleterious. Puppy and kitten chows are too high in protein for long-term health. You can also feed Zupreem Brand or Mazuri Brand Omnivore Diet . (Although I personally feel both these diets are too high in protein (26%) and fat and too low in fiber.)
You can make a zoo-type diet yourself, but the animals tend to pick through it and their actual intake may be unhealthy. However, many zoos do this by combining dog chow, diced vegetables and greens, alfalfa meal, ferret or mink chow, diced rodents, diced chicks crickets, mealworms and a vitamin-mineral supplement. I feel that the final blend should have a protein content of 15-18%, fat content of 10-12.0%, and fiber content of 8-10% unless the animals are bred but their exact nutrient requirements remain unknown.
Remember, God designed raccoons to always be hungry. If you routinely feed a raccoon until it is full - you are feeding it too much. Doing so leads to obesity and shortens their lifespan. (That is why captive and zoo-kept wildlife are always tucked into a corner sleeping.)
Females can breed as early as one year old.
Many adult males weigh in the mid 30 lb range – females are smaller.
I have seen litter size vary from three to eight
Their pregnancy lasts about 61 days
Wild raccoons wean their babies at about 76 days but the immature raccoons
often stay with
Coat colors are quite variable
In the wild, more than half their diet is plant material.
Southern raccoons tend to be smaller than their northern counterparts.
Males play no part in raising the young.
Raccoons kept in captivity tend to get too fat and too little exercise.
Raccoons are the archetype omnivores – true opportunist, they will eat practically anything.
I have seen captive raccoons live 12 years. The record is said to be
about 21 years
Raccoons live from Canada to South America. The Aztec/Nawatl word for raccoon is Tachon (Tah hon with a guttural second h).
They tend to range about a mile to a mile-and-a-half unless food or water become scarce or the population becomes too dense.
that have been reported as used by various institutions in raccoons
in the past with no
see Thread of 8/6/06 below for a reader's vaccination recommendations
WHY NOT TO DO EVERYTHING YOU JUST TOLD ME TO DO ?
I have raised orphaned raccoons for 63 years - since I was 9 years old. So I know what I am talking about. Raising and later releasing a baby urban raccoon in 2016 invariably ends in sadness. The kindest thing you can do for this baby is to put it right back where you found it this very moment; or take it to an experienced, level-headed , wildlife rehabilitator who realizes that there are no more good release sites in the United States. This is because, despite wishful thinking, Any place that could support a wild raccoon already has one. If you release more raccoons there, there will not be enough food to support them all and they will all go hungry and suffer slow deaths. If you supplement food to the group to allow them to all survive, like this, the abnormally high number of raccoons will cause disease and parasite outbreaks that will kill them all slowly and painfully - as it will for the other species of wildlife that once lived in that area. Avoiding this by keeping them locked up in cages for there natural lives is a very very cruel thing to do to a wild animal that was born to live free. I wish I could tell you something else, something you would rather hear, but I can't.
These are just a few of the emails that come to me over the years:
5/12/2011 Dear Dr. Hines,
I was reading your web page at http://www.2ndchance.info/raisingraccoons.htm and noticed that you mentioned how unusually resistant Baylisascaris procyonis eggs are to ordinary sterilization measures. A while ago I ran across the article below in which some researchers determined that the '100% thermal death point' of baylisascaris procyonis eggs was just 62 degrees C (or 144 F) sustained for some unspecified time less than one minute:http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Thermal+death+point+of+Baylisascaris+procyonis+eggs-a0158090618
When I read this I was surprised since I always thought that typical sterilization temperatures were generally well in excess of 100 C. If this research is correct, then submerging a potentially infected object such as feeding bowl or toy in boiling water for one minute or running it through the 'heated dry cycle' on most consumer dishwashers (usually thermostatically maintained at 75 or 83 C) would be sufficient to kill any eggs on the object.
With regard to potentially infected bedding materials, I suspect that an ordinary clothes dryer could achieve sustained internal drum temperatures of 62 C or more once most of the water had evaporated from whatever was being dried. As I understand it, most dryers run at around 165 F/73 C or higher.
I don't handle raccoons myself, but I thought that this information might give some peace of mind to those who are courageous (and warm-hearted) enough to do so.