I received a message late in the evening on Friday night. A local resident had been observing four Raccoon kits huddled together, trying to keep warm on the shoulder of a road. Trying to do the right thing, and let nature take its course she didn’t immediately intervene, but on the third day, she realized the mother raccoon wasn’t coming back to her kits. Reluctantly I agreed to take them in.
Taking raccoons in is a very dangerous prospect. Even though these youngsters were only about 4 weeks old, the potential for disease was strong. Round worm, which can cause a plethora of illness for both humans and animals including dogs. Leptospirosis and Salmonella, which again can be transferred to humans and other animals causing severe sickness and possibly death. Let us not also forget Rabies.
Many fantasize about owning a pet raccoon, but in reality not only is it dangerous for humans and pets, it is a horrible life for a raccoon to be living in captivity. They will become destructive and never truly domesticate, for their wild nature will always dominate.
Reluctantly I agreed. Wait what? Trish “I believe in science” conservation girl taking in raccoons? Knowing the dangers of harboring raccoons, I felt more comfortable with the kits in my possession rather than a resident who may not understand the potential for disease transfer.
They arrived starving and severely dehydrated. Their eyes were crusted over with dirt and goop. Looking at them, I had little hope of their survival. What do I do? Euthanize them? Surely there are enough raccoons on the planet that these four wouldn’t make a difference. Raccoons that are populating urban areas causing the spread of disease and killing family pets such as cats, rabbits, and even chickens. This would make the most sense scientifically speaking, but looking at the little mass of huddled kits in the box I decided to give them a shot.
My first call was to the Conservation Officer’s Service of British Columbia. It is illegal to be in possession of wildlife. After receiving the go-ahead I contacted a rescue facility about two hours away to see if she could take them in. Many rescues will not take these walking petrie dishes of destruction, so I had my fingers crossed. If she couldn’t take them, I would have no choice but to have them destroyed. Thankfully the facility had room, and agreed to take them.
It was a long first night of hydrating this motely crew every couple hours. At first they would snarl and try to bite me through the welding gloves I used to help restrain them. They were weak, but still very capable of inflicting a bite with their little teeth that had recently errupted. Using formula I had in the cupboard left over from a friend, I gently used a syringe to feed them being careful to not aspirate their lungs with fluid.
After the third feeding they started to realize that it wasn’t such a bad thing to be held by that hairless giant, and eagerly embraced feeding time.
It was kind of a whirlwind for me, with a lack of sleep, I was running on fumes, and lost all track of time. The telephone rang, and the voice on the other end was that of my coworker reminding me that I was late for work. I’m never late!!! Crap! I explained something about having a raccoon on my lap and would be there in five minutes confusing poor Jo on the other end. Did Trish seriously say she had a raccoon on her lap making her late for work?
My family was a godsend and took over feeding the “creatures” as we called them. The kids knew the risks and took precautions for their safety.
When I’d finished my shift at work, I literally sprinted home to my little “creatures”.
My little creatures needed triage. They had been isolated to one room, for fear of ticks and fleas and worms infesting our family and home. I took them out into our living room for the next feeding, spreading out a blanket on the floor. They were pretty content to huddle together in the corner.
At this point, all they had had was hydration in the form of baby formula, but already you could see some life in their eyes. No longer sunken in so deeply, their little eyes started to sparkle. Upon the recommendation of our local vet, I introduced “the creatures” to soft cat food mixed with formula. It was a hit! Like gluttons, they dove in and devoured that first feeding.
We have a cat named bloop, after the sound he makes. Bllloooooooooppp we called after he shot us a look of disgust at the vile creatures in our living room. The sound is made by rolling your tongue and kind of singing the sound. This sound, the bloop noise, is apparently Raccoon language, for they immediately responded by calling back and running straight at me. Oh, how I feared for my toes that were dangerously exposed to their sharp little teeth.
“of course you speak Raccoon” my friend Lindsay laughed. Ranger Trish to the rescue
They began to have personalities, prompting me to name them, which is yet another rule I broke if you are committed to science-based conservation. No human names, only numbers for they are wild animals, not pets. Ya, I fell off the wagon pretty hard.
Lucifer was the largest and most aggressive. I was graced with the scent from his anal glands the first night as he expressed them in anger and fear when we tried the first feeding. Lucifer, while still grumpy was now ok with being fed. He hated getting his face cleaned, however making it very interesting during triage time.
Gollum was about the same size as Lucifer, but a little less assertive with his teeth. He would dive into the food bowl, face first with his arms wrapped around the sides, using his back feet to push the bowl around the room preventing his siblings from eating.
Creepy Eyes was showing the most signs of malnutrition and dehydration. I still was concerned for his welfare, but like the others, he dove in and fed like a champ when Gollumn or Lucifer were not around the food bowl.
Consuela, my little sweet Consuela was so sweet, and content to be by my side at all times. She’d crawl up onto my lap, and after about the 92 time she crawled up I let her cuddle in. She took a beating constantly from her siblings, with Lucifer latching onto her face, ears, and feet at any given moment. It really wasn’t too hard to handle having a raccoon snuggled into your ear. Man she was cute.
Seriously how could you not love them?
This is only temporary my husband reminded me. Don’t get attached. It had been planned that once our new Conservation Officer arrived back in town, he was going to deliver them to the animal rescue facility, but I have to admit, I began dragging my feet. I hadn’t heard from him, but I didn’t really try too hard. I had been infected not by Leptospirosis, roundworms, rabies fleas or salmonella. I was infected with warm fuzzies.
Never did I want to have a raccoon for a pet, for I knew the consequences to both humans and animals, I was just really enjoying my time of being a mom. They’d follow me around the yard, blooping at me as I blooped at them. We’d chill out after bathtime, drying off and watching movies together as they dried. My husband kind of shook his head in dismay when he saw me on the couch with four raccoons, two chocolate labs, a wolf cross and 2 cats watching Netflix.
Movie night with Pedro and “the creatures”
It was time for an intervention he decided. While I was at work he tracked down the conservation officer to come and grab the little trash pandas. I could no longer be trusted to make science-based decisions, and those raccoons needed to go before I fell deeper in love. I dashed into the house from work, expecting to resume my raccoon routine I found an empty room. They were gone. While I was incredibly sad it truly was the right thing to do. They needed to go to rehab. It was best for them and probably me. I really was turning into the crazy raccoon lady, sending a multitude of pics and videos to my friends and family. It was time.
Those who believe in Science-Based conservation are not heartless monsters. We do have hearts, probably larger than most anticipate. We want whats best for wildlife and humankind, executing tough decisions from time to time that may not feel good.
While there is a time and place for compassion, let’s keep our eyes and minds open when it comes to all that is conservation to help forge a better balance and future for wildlife and the backcountry habitat we all enjoy. Special thank you to the Creston Valley Veterinary Hospital, Helen Jameson and her rescue facility, Conservation Officer’s service, and Sitina Bredy, the resident who surrendered these kits giving them a new lease on life.
Most of the time wildlife is not in need of rescuing. Many humans intervene causing more harm. For the rare times it is necessary be sure to abide by the law and let professionals do the rescuing safely and ethically. Wild Animals should never be kept as pets. Keep wildlife in the wild, please.