Despite the snow on the ground, spring is here and mammals and birds are busy raising inexperienced young.
State wildlife officials remind everyone that the best way to enjoy Wisconsin’s wildlife is from a distance. Raccoon young, called kits, are born sightless but are capable of walking, climbing and running when they are 6-8 weeks old. If you see raccoon kits, their mother is likely nearby even though you don’t see her.
Raccoon young, called kits, are born sightless but are capable of walking, climbing and running when they are 6-8 weeks old. Photo credit: Cheryl Stephenson
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Carissa Freeh, member of the multi-agency Keep Wildlife Wild committee, says whether you live in the country, city, or suburbs, it is not uncommon to encounter these adaptable mammals. Well-meaning people may discover raccoon kits during the daytime, and will take unneeded action when they mistakenly believe the kits are in trouble. Even with our late winter storms, raccoons are adapted to handle Wisconsin weather, and a raccoon kit’s best chance for survival is with its mother.
“Mother raccoons will leave their kits alone near their den while she is searching for food or a new den site,” Freeh said. “It is normal for raccoon kits to be seen playing or heard vocalizing near their den unattended by mom. This is their way of building their strength and learning to survive. Watch and enjoy their antics from afar so their mother feels that it is safe to return.”
Freeh says her best advice to spring callers concerned about raccoon kits is simple: “Watch from a distance. If they appear healthy, leave them alone.”
What if a raccoon kit is truly in need of help?
“If you find a raccoon kit and it appears to be sick, cold, weak, injured or still has its eyes closed, then it may need help,” said Dianne Robinson, DNR wildlife biologist. “If you are truly concerned for the raccoon’s well-being, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Do not touch or feed the raccoon. Even young raccoons have sharp teeth and claws.”
For more information, visit the Keep Wildlife Wild webpage on the DNR’s website, dnr.wi.gov, by searching keyword Keep Wildlife Wild, or check out this helpful document for baby mammals [PDF]. If a raccoon kit is injured or known to be orphaned, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator by visiting the DNR’s website, dnr.wi.gov, and searching keyword rehab.