Dec. 31st....On New Year's Eve we rescued three baby raccoons, born within a day or two of Christmas. Their mom had made a den in a nest in a palm tree (not too swift). It and the babies fell out. A watcher hoped that the mother would move the kits but she didn't. Cold and wet on the ground, it appeared they were abandoned so we were called. As always, the first couple of days were the trickiest but they responded to food and warmth. They were the tiniest things - all three fit in one hand, their eyes and ears were closed (ears pressed flat forward) and they didn't do much more that eat and sleep.
"Still at the eating and sleeping stage"
Feb. 7th....They have entered that playful kitten/puppy stage. They thrive on affection and attention (which is crucial to their development at this age). The raccoons are quite vocal and demanding, especially at bottle time.
Feb. 15th...Although we are still bottle feeding them, we are starting to get them to eat from a bowl. Their personalities are developing. Whizzer, the boy, is still the crybaby but he has grown from being the runt. Sassie, the little girl, THINKS she is the tough one but is the most easily frightened. Big Momma Cassie, named so because she was and still is the biggest of the litter, is the most gentle and affectionate and still the biggest eater. They are walking, running, climbing and following us around like little ducklings.
"Yikes! It's a big world out here"
The goal is always to rehabilitate and release back into the wild whatever the animal. Not all rescues are successful. Either way, it is very emotional. The first few hours are crucial because the animals may be dehydrated or near starvation. We have only lost one raccoon (rescued an adult that was hit by a car) but we have nurtured and released four so far, not counting the adults. Meeko, was the hardest emotionally. This is the first time that we are raising more than one at a time - we don't know whether that will make it easier or three times as hard when the time comes to say goodbye.
Feb. 27th...The first day without a single bottle, it was hard to listen to the babies cry. They were weaned onto a gruel of formula, canned cat food, baby rice cereal and bananas. At this age, dinner is always followed by bathtime.
"I'm ready for my bath now"
Mar. 7th....The babies have adjusted to life without their bottles and now readily try all new foods. Dry kibble and water are always available to them of course.
Mar. 16th...Daily outings now find them making a run to climb trees. We lead them to smaller isolated trees where they can be more easily retrieved or coaxed down with a bribe.
"Time to come home now"
Apr. 12th...Can I claim them as dependents? (they eat enough!!) The raccoons are now being allowed out on their own for a few hours each day since they have not strayed more than 500' or so into the woods on my block (I only have one neighbor in a 12 block radius). I have gradually increased the time they are allowed out since they have returned each time I walked into the woods and called them (and rewarding them with dog biscuits or grapes). They are getting big! It is wonderful to watch them romp and play, exploring everything. It won't be long before they will be ready for complete release. In the meantime, I am savoring my days with them.
"Sassie and Whizzer"
May 3rd.....Release is almost at hand. The raccoons now forage in the woods for half a day before we coax them home. I am tempted to make the final release here but know that it would be better for them elsewhere. How I will miss them. But I am taking lots of pictures (something I neglected with Meeko).
"A Goodbye Kiss from Whizzer"
May 17th....There is a road in Florida called "Follow That Dream" Parkway. It is where Elvis Presley made the movie of the same name. Before it deadends at a tiny beach, the "parkway" (a small, lightly traversed road) passes through some of the State's most beautiful wetlands. Once away from that only road, there is only miles and miles of nature's pristine wilderness. Stands of laurel oaks, palms and other hardwood trees, island-like forests, surrounded by marsh grass. Picture freshwater creeks, teeming with minnows and small bass. Picture brackish pools of water, home to small sand crabs. Picture the marsh grass filled with songs of crickets. Picture a majestic old oak tree curved over a little pond. Picture the small footprints left behind on the muddy bank by three young raccoons as they went deeper and deeper into this haven, exploring all the wonders of this, their new home. Never looking back, never seeing the tears in our eyes.
I dream of the day when humans will truly learn to care for and respect nature. The raccoons have been released back into the wild, near where they were born, to follow that dream. May God watch over the 3 babies.
"Whizzer, wild and free, as he was meant to be"