Face it, we all find baby animals irresistible!
Updated: Mar 28, 2019
Raccoons are trending on social media with endless YouTube videos of obese balls of fluff sitting on a couch or at the dining table eating Doritos, cotton candy or grapes. It has a comical appeal that attracts people to the idea of owning one. Helpless miniature replicas of their adult version. All this cuteness tends to cloud judgement about what is best for all involved, especially the animal.
In the wild raccoon babies are reliant on their mother for about 6-12 months. The first 12 weeks babies receive vital nutrients thru their mothers milk. Nutrition that will protect them against deformities and compromised immune systems. During the weaning process, she is teaching skills vital to their survival as an adult such as how to find appropriate food and shelter. Instinctive aggressive play with siblings is their invaluable lesson of self defense. All of these skills are imperative for their longevity in the wild.
Since raccoons pulled from the wild are not bred for qualities we look for in a pet, their adult personality is a total crapshoot. Most raccoons will eventually become inherently aggressive as they reach maturity.
This is when we get the request for help because “the raccoon is now attacking (someone) in the house” and “it needs to be released immediately”. And this is where it gets real for the animal. What chance does it have of surviving in a raccoon’s world when it’s been raised like a dog? And once this raccoon bites someone it becomes a death sentence for the raccoon and an immediate hospital visit for the victim.
Another common reason for release request is when the newness of owning an active raccoon wears off. The tiresome task of caring for and cleaning up after this busy animal becomes reality. But now there is a lack of fear for humans and inability to live independently, so most of these undeserving animals end up being euthanized, starved in the wild or killed by predators (people being the number one predator.)
Other serious overlooked factors of raccoon ownership are the zoonotic diseases wild caught raccoons can carry. Everyone’s heard of rabies and perhaps even distemper but of lesser common knowledge is leptospirosis and parasites. The very serious, Baylisascaris Procyonis is a parasite found in the intestine of the raccoon.
Infected raccoons shed millions of eggs in their feces which develop to the infective stage in 2- 4 weeks. These eggs are resistant to most environmental conditions and can live for years in the soil. Infection is spread when people, especially young children, and other animals, accidentally ingest the eggs from soil, water, hens or other objects contaminated with raccoon feces such as sandboxes or gardens. The eggs must be ingested by a person or animal to be able to hatch and release larvae. Animals can also become infected by eating another smaller animals that’s been infected with Baylisascaris. The ingested eggs hatch into larvae which then cause disease as they travel thru the brain, spinal cord, liver and other organs and muscles. Swallowing a few eggs may result in few or no symptoms but in larger amounts symptoms may include nausea, fatigue, liver enlargement, loss of muscle control, lack of attention to people and surroundings, lack of muscle coordination, coma and blindness. Some cases have resulted in death. Signs and symptoms may take a week after ingestion to appear. Young children and the developmentally disabled are at largest risk because they are more apt to put dirty things in their mouth. Also at risk are hunters, trappers, taxidermists and wildlife rehabilitations.
NO EFFECTIVE CURE IS AVAILABLE.
After reading this, if you are still tempted to raise a wild caught raccoon as a pet the then know the law:
It is illegal to possess, own, control, restrain or keep any wild animal. The purpose of the law is to protect wild animal populations and to protect people from disease and injury. Be responsible. Appreciate wildlife in their natural habitat.
Barb Gay, Founder & Executive Director
Wild Again Rescue