Raccoon kits (Procyon lotor) are the young offspring of adult male raccoons, also known as boars, and adult female raccoons, also referred to as sows. Interestingly, a group of raccoons is called a nursery. The breeding season for raccoons begins in late winter, and sows typically give birth to between one and six baby kits sometime in April or May. These kits become independent roughly a year later but, prior to leaving their parents, they are usually very guarded by their mothers.
Unfortunately, separation between sow and kits does happen. As an example, when a female raccoon takes up residence in an attic or other human structure for its den site, it is sometimes trapped and removed by the home or building owner. Oftentimes, these unintentionally abandoned kits are found and brought to CROW.
Recently, two raccoon kits were admitted to CROW after being found in a similar situation previously described. These mammal babies require lots of care to be raised at CROW including bottle feeds if they are young enough and help in learning vital skills needed for the wild through behavioral and environmental enrichment.
Dr. Robin Bast, CROW staff veterinarian, agreed the work load that raccoon kits bring to the clinic staff can be around-the-clock duty. “Sometimes it can be, depending on how young they are,” she said. “Kits require feeds every two and a half to three hours, which can be up to seven times a day. Feeds can start as early as 5 a.m. and go as late as midnight in newborns.”
Then, there is the teaching element for such youthful animals. "Although being raised by their natural mom is the best option,” said Dr. Bast, “we do our best to provide enrichment options to encourage natural behaviors which will help them survive such as foraging for food, ability to find shelter, etcetera.”
This learning process can go on for quite some time. It can take months before the kits are of an appropriate age and weight to be released. “Kits are 16 weeks old when they are released, as long as they have proven they are able to forage for food on their own and exhibit other natural behaviors for their species,” said Dr. Bast.
The two sibling kits at CROW are very young. “These kits are still being weaned off formula and introduced to solid foods, and are being housed indoors,” said Dr. Bast. “In a few weeks, they will be moved to an outdoor enclosure for the rest of their rehabilitation. They’ll be here several more weeks until they reach release age."
Raising kits is something CROW medical staff members know all too well. “Each year, we raise over 150 baby raccoons that have been orphaned or injured,” said Dr. Bast.
CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.