Handling Procedure

Table of Contents

In the Field

Set and bait traps after the park closes. Check traps every few hours to ensure animals are not in too long. Raccoons have been known to escape our traps while unattended. Record the location of each trap and the bait used. Record capture success as well.

Once a raccoon is spotted, attempt to identify it via ear punches, unique features, and PIT tag (signal might be picked up in the trap once the raccoon is pressed). Release non-target species and recaptures form earlier in the week, but record the capture. If it is a new raccoon to this trapping season, immobilize it. Weigh the raccoon in trap to estimate weight. Each trap has a prerecorded weight (4.32kg trap+1.17kg divider=5.49kg).

Immobilize it with a 5:1 mixture of Ketamine:Xylazine at a concentration of 20 mg/kg Ketamine and 4 mg/kg Xylazine with a 34” 22 gauge syringe. Refer to the pre-calculated table for dosage by weight, to be calculated and confirmed by multiple observers. Raccoons under 3kg will receive a 20% higher dose due to their higher metabolism. Draw Ketamine in a 3cc or 6cc syringe, with enough volume for addition of Xylazine; draw Xylazine in a 1mL syringe. Use separate needles for each chemical. Draw air into the Ketamine syringe and inject Xylazine, then remove air. Insert a trap divider to keep the raccoon from running out of the cage, then open the trap door and use the push plunger and divider to firmly press the raccoon into the far end of the trap for injection in a firm, fleshy area. Insert the needle all the way in and press quickly. The faster this is done the better the sedative will work. Record the injection side.

Once the raccoon is immobilized, remove it from the trap and record the actual weight (The dosage of Atipamezole is still based on original calculations of Xylazine used). If the actual weight is over 1kg higher than estimated then wait longert to reverse xylazine so ketamine has longer to metabolize. Then scan again for a PIT tag in case it was missed. If it was mistakenly sedated wait for Ketamine to wear off before reversing Xylazine. Lay the animal in sternal recumbency on a sheet, pull the tongue out of mouth to open airways with tongue forceps, apply eye ointment, and blindfold. Keep the raccoon covered by a thermal blanket as much as possible in cool or rainy weather, and use ice packs if it overheats. Record and keep track of the weather. Needles (not syringes) must go in a sharps disposal. Any other contaminated waste goes in a biohazard bag.

Every 5 minutes take the raccoon’s vital signs! Values should not fall below 75% of the normal values for raccoons. If they do proceed to the emergency section. Lubricate the thermometer.

  • Temp: 37.5- 38.8 C (28.12-29.1; 40 max)
  • Heart Rate: 152 - 200 bpm (114-150)
  • Respiratory Rate: 15-30 bpm (11.25-22.5)
  • Capillary Refill Time: 1 -3 sec


Before inserting PIT a tag, scan it to ensure it works. Insert the PIT tag between shoulder blades, in the subcutaneous space below the skin and above the muscle. Press down on the applicator tip when removing to further help the tag stay in place. Read to make sure it was successfully implanted.

For quick organization of samples place the PIT blue tag in a gallon Ziploc bag that will be used to store all samples (except blood cards) in the cooler. PIT stickers can be used on the data sheet, hair sample, buccal sample, and blood card.

Use diluted chlorhexidine and alcohol to disinfect tools and prep the skin for tissue sampling. For tools used in DNA collection first rinse with 3% hydrogen peroxide, then alcohol and flame sterilize.

Draw 4-6cc blood from the jugular or arm with a 34” 22 gauge needle (max. 6cc), deposit 2-3 drops on one circle of a Whatman FTA blood card (allow to dry and pack with silica packet), do not place in cooler. Use a paper “shield” to prevent splatter to other sample. Each card can hold samples from four raccoons, if there is no cross contamination.

Divide remaining blood into purple top anticoagulant and red top serum separator tubes, 2mL each. Invert the purple top 8 times, the red topped 5 times. Place this in the cooler under ice in an upright position. Blood from the ear notch or cutting a nail quick can also be used for blood cards.

Take tissue samples from the left ear via 8-10mm ear punch and store in pre-filled vials of ethanol. Collect feces from the trap if available, and if not, take fecal samples using a fecal loop with lubricant, and place in a bag in the cooler. Swab the inside of the mouth with a sterile buccal swab for 10 seconds and return it to its case in cooler. Pull a couple of pinches of hair with follicle from the right shoulder and place in a small envelope. Collect ectoparasites with a flea comb (10 strokes from the base of the neck to the base of the tail on the dorsal region) and remove with a sterile wipe to plastic bags for temporary storage. Briefly inspect for other ectoparasites.

Take measurements of the head, total body, and tail lengths with the raccoon lying on its back. Return to sternal recumbency and measure abdominal circumference above hips, chest circumference just above start of rib cage, neck circumference, and skull circumference in front of ears. Measure the lengths of the tibia, hind foot, and upper canine with calipers. Measure the inside of the ear with a ruler. All measurements are taken from the right side unless an abnormality prevents this. Take identification pictures and record the photo names. Add GPS collars after identifying photographs. Record the circumference of the collar.

Before administering reversal ensure paperwork is complete. After the effects of Ketamine are wearing off (around 40 minutes) administer Atipamezole to reverse anesthetics and place the raccoon back into the trap to recover prior to release. At this time label all samples. Samples are difficult to label in the lab due to condensation and cooling.


If after ten minutes the raccoon is still active, and upright, in the trap re-administer a 50% dose of Ketamine and Xylazine. Give another 5 minutes if it is no longer upright but still awake. If the raccoon begins to wake up too early and has been sedated, quickly return it the the trap and cover. It may fall back under sedation without stimuli. If not, re-sedate it with a 25% re-dose of Ketamine and Xylazine. Stick with the original dose of atipemazole if you do not know if the raccoon received the full dose of Xylazine originally. If you are sure it received the dose but still need to redose adjust the amount of reversal. Re-administration can cause the animal to take much longer to recover from Ketamine.

In case of emergency

In the event a raccoon is having adverse effects do the following: Attempt to return the raccoon to the correct temperature using a thermal blanket or ice packs and by keeping it dry. Make sure airways are open. An ambubag and endotracheal tubes can be used to assist with breathing difficulties. Administer 200mL lactated ringer by IV for dehydration. If this fails, take the animal to Dr. Smith.