Every year, wildlife rehabilitators, game wardens, and veterinarians are forced to euthanize hundreds of healthy raccoons. In most parts of the country, raccoons are considered rabies vector species. This does not mean that it is likely that they have rabies; only that they are at a greater risk than, say, a rabbit or goat. Because of this, most states require that any raccoon that has bitten a person must be tested for rabies. Rabies testing can only be done by euthanizing the animal to examine its brain tissue.
I hate having to kill innocent baby animals. It’s the opposite of the goal of a wildlife rehabilitator, but it’s state law and I am obligated to follow it. If you handle a raccoon and are scratched or bitten— even superficially, even by a healthy-looking baby— I have no option but to euthanize it. Please don’t put me in that position.
Raccoon fur can also carry the eggs of Baylisascaris procyonis, a form of roundworm that is fatal to humans but harmless to raccoons. If you handle a raccoon bare-handed, you could die even if you are never bitten or scratched.
If you find a baby raccoon, please… for their sake, for your sake, for my sake: do not handle it bare-handed, only with a trap or bite-resistant gloves. Even if you find a baby too small to have teeth or to bite, you should at least put on a pair of gardening gloves or latex gloves before picking it up.