There are sixteen raccoons in rehab at this time. Deb told me that she usually has at least 30 raccoons during baby season. She has no idea right now why the numbers are so low, but we’re hoping it’s because the mamas are not being killed. There are also three groundhogs and two foxes. No skunks yet.
The raccoons vary in age from around 5 – 8 weeks. Today I found out that an 8 week old raccoon is almost a different animal from a 5 week old raccoon. They are hugely bigger, intensely more curious and they have a finer appreciation for music and stuffed animals. They are just as squirmy, but with more teeth and sharper claws, squirmy is a bit more painful. We wear surgical style gloves while handling the little dears, and today, they shredded three pairs. I finally gave up and just wore the shreds.
Raccoons are very intelligent and probably the most tactile animals I’ve ever handled. They not only want to touch everything, they need to touch and be touched. They need toys, interesting sights and sounds and they need incredible amounts of social interaction. If a lone baby comes in, we hope for another of the same age so that they can be cage-mates. Baby raccoons need to be close to each other. They need family. A lonely raccoon is a sad sight indeed. We try to give them extra attention, but it’s just not the same as being with a littermate.
The lucky thing for us about raising raccoons is that we can lavish all sorts of love and attention on them without worry that they will imprint on us. They recognize their caretakers as okay sorts of animals, but they don’t bond with us. They wild up really quick once they are moved outside. When they are released, they leave wild and don’t seek out humans. So we humans, as temporary caretakers, get to coo and ahh and cuddle our raccoons with abandon. Which is good because we can’t do that with skunks or foxes or most other critters because they do imprint on us and if that happens, state law dictates that they must be destroyed.
Yes, there is a bitter pill with all this. And more bitter are the babies who come to us in bad shape. We had two babies dropped off today that had been on their own for 7 days. Mom must have been killed, because raccoon moms never leave their babies for more than an hour at a time. Why the humans who found them left them on their own this long without calling is a mystery. The poor dears were starving, extremely weak, covered in fly eggs and literally being eaten alive by maggots. No hope for these two. So today, I witnessed my first release by euthanasia. It was terribly sad, but humanely done, with tenderness, love and respect.
Yes, there is the bitter downside.
But I also helped feed sixteen babies, was purred and trilled at, pawed, sniffed, had my fingers sucked on, and witnessed raccoons making music on toy pianos.
There is magic as well.