DETROIT (WWJ) – A child holds two young raccoons in front of his face outside a corner store in Detroit.
In a video titled “PET RACOONS (sic) only in DETROIT!!!“, posted to YouTube Sunday, an older man says he found the baby animals in the downtown area —and he hopes they’ll bring in some cash. “Gonna sell them if I can,” he says.
A passerby cuddles one to her shoulder like a puppy, as another tries to scamper away. “They don’t bite…apparently,” she says.
That’s not true, according to John Pepin, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Pepin hadn’t seen the video when he was contacted by WWJ Newsradio 950, but said raccoons can carry disease, including distemper, and will often bite or scratch as a natural defense.
“They’re wild animals,” he stressed. “They might be cute, but they’re not going to act like a pet in your home.”
Pepin said it’s absolutely illegal to keep raccoons as pets just as it is any wild animal, rabbits and squirrels included. “There are statutes preventing that; you could be ticketed,” he said. “You also cannot sell wild game. It’s against the law in Michigan.”
Pepin said that, as always, it’s best to observe wildlife from a distance. Whether it’s a raccoon or a fawn in your own yard or elsewhere, the rule remains the same: Look but don’t touch.
“When you find a baby animal in the woods, or wherever you find it, it’s best just to leave it there, leave it where it is,” Pepin said. “Oftentimes the parents are aware of where the baby is and they’ll come back to it.”
Anyone who sees someone keeping or selling wild animals, as pets or otherwise, in Michigan is urged to call or text the DNR’s Report All Poaching (RAP) line at 800-292-7800, or fill out a report online. Cash rewards may be available and tipsters can remain anonymous. [Get more information here].