Raccoons

Raccoons have litters of four to six young between March and August. Raccoons have one litter per year, although some raccoons have their litter in the spring while others have their litter closer to fall. Gestation is 63 days, babies’ eyes open in 18-24 days and they leave the nest at eight to ten weeks. When they reach 16 weeks of age, they are weaned. Even though the raccoon might be weaned, it can still stay with its mother for up to a year.

Raccoon body temperature is 100-103 degrees.

You may hear that they make good pets- they do not! When they get older, they become agitated easily and get very moody. They become increasingly inquisitive and mischievous. If not provided with constant enrichment, they destroy everything they can get their paws on. Raccoons are renown escape artists and will also injure themselves in attempting to escape. Not only is it against the law to make wild animals into pets, it is unfair to the animal. Do not release a tame raccoon as it will be overly friendly with people and considered a hazard to not only people, but also to itself. If the raccoon approaches a person in this friendly manner, it is assumed to carry rabies or canine distemper and is euthanized.  Call a rehabilitator to “wild-up” the animal before releasing them.

Another reason to not keep raccoons as pets is that they can be infected with canine distemper and are capable of transferring this virus to pet dogs. Canine distemper is a very infectious, deadly disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems. Canine distemper has two forms in raccoon: one form includes signs of runny nose, eye infections, and upper respiratory infections, and the other form is known as the “dumb” form. The raccoon stumbles around and becomes super friendly with humans.

Raccoons are also the natural carrier of the roundworm Baylisascaris procyonis. While not usually a problem in raccoons, IT IS A SIGNIFICANT RISK IN HUMANS AND OTHER ANIMALS. The eggs of Baylisascaris are able to stick to fur and skin and are present in feces. The roundworm is spread via fecal-oral route. The eggs are found in raccoon latrines (especially woodpiles) and on the fur of raccoons and other animals who frequent latrines looking for seeds. Once on the skin, the only practical way to remove the eggs is with bleach; however, bleach does not kill the eggs. Only open flame or steam can kill Baylisascaris eggs. One must be cautious; once Baylisascaris eggs are ingested they become larvae in the intestine and migrate throughout the abnormal host’s body, with a preference for nervous tissue. Baylisascaris larvae will migrate into the eye or the brain of the infected individual. If in the eye, enucleating (removal of the eye) is the only treatment. If in the brain, death is the only outcome. Please keep your pets and loved ones safe! For further information, contact the Wildlife Medical Clinic.

Found a raccoon that is in need? Please refer to our Wildlife Help and Resources page: http://vetmed.illinois.edu/wildlife/wildlife-help-and-resources/raccoons/