The Life Cycle of a Baby Raccoon

Raccoons are wildly independent creatures. With their impressive foraging and climbing skills, there is little need to rely on one another for survival. With that in mind, what exactly does the early life of a raccoon look like? At Skedaddle, we hope that understanding the stages baby raccoons go through from birth to full maturity will also help us understand when it’s important to leave them be, and when to call a professional for help.

When are baby raccoons born?

Most people believe baby raccoons are only born in early spring, but this is not usually the case. In our 30 years of wildlife experience, we’ve seen newborns anywhere from late February, and in some cases, all the way into mid July. Newborns are born with a pinkish-grey hue to their skin, light grey, sparse fur, and a faint mask on their faces.

The newborn stage lasts around 2-3 weeks. During this time, raccoons are not able to open their eyes or walk, meaning they are 100% dependent on their mother's care. This is why it’s so important not to trap and relocate adult raccoons as you could inadvertently cause a litter of babies to be orphaned. 

While they are not able to do much, newborn raccoons are able to make quite a lot of noise. Newborn raccoons will often chirp, whine, and mew for their mother while she is out foraging for food. Since raccoons are nocturnal, these noises are also often heard at night, and can easily be confused with chirping noises made by birds.

When do baby raccoons start to grow up?

At the 3 week mark, the babies begin opening their eyes for the first time. For the next few weeks, the babies are still immobile, but are able to shuffle around and physically see their surroundings, including their mother and each other. This is also when their fur begins to grow thicker, and their distinctive masks and striped tails begin to show.

Around 6 weeks after birth, the babies will begin walking. At this time, the mother raccoon will take her babies walking around short distances away from the den, slowly building up to longer journeys, and eventually climbing. For the first few climbing journeys, a mother will stay very close-by to protect her young in the event of a fall.

Baby raccoons are considered weaned from the nest around 2-3 months after birth, meaning they are able to fully survive on their own without the help of their mother. However, raccoon families have been found to stay together for up to a year before the babies move on and separate from their litter.

What should I do if I find a baby raccoon?

Raccoon mothers are tremendously protective of their young. We’ve seen mothers go to extreme lengths, ripping at siding and shingles, and even damaging structural elements of a home if they are locked away from their babies. When removing raccoons from an attic, garage or shed it’s important to ensure that the mother and babies are kept together. 

Just because a baby is found out in the wild does not necessarily mean it has been abandoned. If it appears healthy with no visible signs of injury, it’s mother is likely closeby and will return to retrieve it. Keep your distance, and keep an eye on the baby. Raccoons are nocturnal creatures, so we usually recommend waiting until one night has passed to allow the mother the chance to retrieve her baby during her waking hours.

If the baby appears injured, malnourished, or harmed in any way, please call your local humane society or wildlife rehab center and describe the situation to them. Only a professional should be handling wildlife, to minimize your risk of contracting diseases or causing injury to yourself or the animals.

Mother raccoons are best suited to be taking care of their young, so if there is any possibility of reuniting the baby with their mother, that is always the most preferable option. It’s a beautiful thing to encounter young wildlife, and by educating ourselves on their habits and life cycles, we are able to respect and appreciate wildlife from a safe, healthy distance.

 Article By: Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control