Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Rascal in the Tree
A few years back I was given the privilege to care for two very young raccoons. A litter of 5 were found in a chimney after the mother had been removed and relocated. The homeowners were completely unaware that by moving her they had orphaned her 5 offspring. Once I ended up with them they were severely dehydrated and crying pitifully for their momma. Believe me when I say when a baby raccoon wants something, he will voice it LOUDLY! No one sleeps when a raccoon can't sleep. They did not have their eyes open yet and I estimated their age to be about 4 weeks. They were hand size and already trying to crawl out of the cage they were in. Being blind didn't seem to stop them from getting into trouble even at that young of an age. After a few days it became apparent that 5 was about 3 too many for me to care for properly with everything else I had going on in my life at the time. I had averaged about 3 hours sleep per night for those three days. I was exhausted and I knew I had a long road ahead. I managed to find suitable homes for the other 3, with the assurance from the foster parents that as soon as they were ready and big enough they would be released. I had recently completed wildlife rehabilitation care classes at Lakeside Nature Center in KC, so this was a perfect opportunity for me to practice everything I had learned. Nothing can prepare you for the 24/7 care that these little sweethearts require. After a few weeks they opened their eyes and took their first look at the world around them. I wondered at the time what they thought when they caught a peek at their "mommy". When they reached the age of about 13 weeks and we were able to get them weaned off milk their diet turned to cat food and much more interesting things. We caught crawdads, small fish, and frogs. We placed these little creatures in a baby wading pool and put the young raccoons in the pool. We stood back and watched the fun begin. Those little raccoons knew instinctively what to do. It was amazing to watch them as they devoured every single creature in the water. We commonly hid food for them to find and they had full run of our yard and farm. As they got older, about 4 months of age they would disappear for days at a time, off exploring I assume. They always came back and begged for food and attention. We tried not to hold them, or pet them. Beyond their physical needs we tried to offer as little attention as possible. A tame raccoon is a dead raccoon. At the age of 5 months I discovered the larger male inside an enclosure we had that held some baby ducks. He was making no secret of his interest in having duck for dinner. I proceeded to try and remove him from the duck pen only to have him bite at me and growl viciously. IT WAS TIME TO GO! We took both raccoons to a friend of ours pond about 2 miles away. Only to have the female end up on a neighbors front porch injured. We took her in and doctored her, after two days we took her back to the pond. My son drove her on the front of the 4 wheeler. This crafty raccoon memorized the ride and came back to our house the very next day. She was in a bird feeder on the kitchen window looking in at us. We came to the conclusion she just wasn't ready to be on her own like her big brother. A friend of mine agreed to keep her through the winter. Once March arrived she began to get testy and it was time to release her. They released her at the same pond, and this seemed to work. Or so we thought, until a couple weeks later our greenhouse had a hole torn in it. We couldn't figure out what caused it for the longest time. I told my husband to set a live trap inside and we would know for sure who the culprit was. It turned out our little villain was the raccoon. She was sitting in the live trap munching on the marshmallows we baited it with and looking at us with a mischievous look on her face, as if to say "Okay you can open the door now". She had been coming into the greenhouse to eat the birdseed and cat food that was being stored in there. I just smiled, I couldn't help but think she was cute and smart for figuring out how to get an easy meal. My husband had a different opinion, especially since he had to fix the greenhouse roof. It is absolutely unbelievable how mush trouble a raccoon can get into. If it can be torn up they will do it. Locks aren't even much of a deterrent. So we took the little thief to Happy Holler Conservation area approximately 10 miles away and released her. We learned the hard way, they need to be at least 5 to 6 miles away or they can find their way back. Hopefully she stayed out of trouble there. As a wildlife rehabber you walk a fine line. Taking in the animals that have been orphaned is a challenge, not only to give them proper care but to not humanize them. Animals that are to acclimated to humans face all sorts of problems. mostly from humans and their pets.