EV to the Rescue! Rescuing Baby Raccoons in the Baylands
by Brittany Sabol, Education and Training Director

(June 25th, 2012) Palo Alto California--


Working at the EcoCenter has brought the EV staff closer to nature in more ways than one.

Recently, a visitor came to our door to report that she had found two baby raccoons in the parking lot by the main gate of the preserve. With my background in wildlife rehabilitation, Allan asked me to go with him to check out the situation. 

Before rescuing the raccoons, I wanted to be sure they actually needed help. It is fairly common to see a juvenile animal without its parent. This does not mean that the baby has been abandoned; the parent could be off foraging for food, moving siblings one at a time to a new den, or hiding in the nearby bushes waiting for you to leave. I recently learned that juvenile raccoons will even leave the den to go play during the day while mom is asleep in the den.

In this case, these raccoons did need help. For one, they were still very small with their eyes only starting to open—not at an age when they usually wander from the den. Also, both raccoons appeared to be getting weak, although the one was still strong enough to be crawling desperately across the parking lot. While we will never know exactly how they came to be there, the most likely scenario seems to be that mom went out foraging overnight, and something happened to her so she never came home.  Eventually, hunger drove the babies to leave the den and search for help.

Raccoons are a rabies-vector species, which means they are a species that commonly carries the disease. In all fairness to our local raccoons, there are very few cases of raccoon rabies in California; most cases of rabies are on the East Coast.  Even so, it is always best to let professionals handle raccoons, as raccoons are feisty at any age and will defend themselves by fierce growling, biting, and scratching. If you do need to pick up an injured or orphaned raccoon (say, to care for them overnight until the rehabilitation clinic opens) be sure to use protection (thick work gloves, thick towels, etc.). Put the animal in a secure box or cage, and keep them warm, dark, and quiet. DO NOT feed them anything, and offer a bowl of fresh water only. Then get the animal to a proper rehabilitation clinic as soon as possible.

Because we found our raccoons in the middle of the day, we called the Palo Alto Animal Services (PAAS) and looked after them until the officer arrived. Without touching them, Allan and I prevented the raccoons from crawling into the parking lot and we also kept predators at bay. We even discovered that if we stood with our shadows over the raccoons, they would stop crawling around. The PAAS officer arrived and gathered the raccoons up amidst their vocal protests and took them to Wildlife Rescue. A couple of days later, I called the clinic and learned that both raccoons received fluids and perked right up. They will be cared for by the rehabilitators and will likely be released back to the wild when they are old enough.

If you find injured wildlife, or have a question about an animal you encounter, contact your nearest wildlife rehabilitator.

Here’s a list of rehabilitation services on the Peninsula:

Palo Alto Animal Services 650-496-5971
Wildlife Rescue (Palo Alto - Closed winters) 650-494-7283
Peninsula Humane Society (Burlingame) 650-340-7022
Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley (San Jose) 408-929-9453

Photo Credit: Allan Berkowitz