Raccoons Make End of Year Deadline: Free in 2017!

The last orphaned Raccoons (Procyon lotor) treated at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center were released on New Year’s Eve, ensuring that these youngsters returned to wild freedom before the ball fell on the year… (note: there is no evidence that raccoons care even a little bit about calendars or clocks).

Both raccoons were late season babies in a year that saw significant departures from our normal caseload – a huge increase in mammal babies as well as an extended season that lasted over a month longer than past years.

One raccoon, a female, was brought to us in early October, weighing only 450 grams, very skinny, with an infection that left both of her eyes crusted shut and heavy congestion. She was only about 4 weeks old, with teeth just beginning to emerge. Her first day in care was nearly her last due to the severity of her condition. She’d been alone for many days after her mother and siblings had been illegally trapped. Severely dehydrated and malnourished, still she showed remarkable strength. She responded quickly to the antibiotics we gave her. The fluids and milk replacer also did their part. Soon she was in good body condition, well hydrated and full of spitting fury.

Our concern that she would be alone for most of her care was alleviated when we admitted another raccoon at the beginning of December. This one, a male, was the same size and at the same stage of development as our female orphan. He was brought to us after being found lingering at the back door of a restaurant, where some were feeding him scraps.

Both raccoons were served by the other’s company. Having a buddy, if you’re a raccoon too young to be on your own, helps reduce stress and promotes well being – play is critical for learning. Raccoons playing together learn about the natural diet items that we provide and playing together encourages them to eat. Play is critical for developing physical skills like climbing. While we don’t wish for patients, admitting the male in early December really helped the female, and having the female in care already was a boon to the male, once his quarantine was over.

We check the weights and development of our orphaned raccoons every two weeks, striking a balance between our need to monitor their progress and their need for privacy and the protection of their wild hearts. By mid-December, we knew that their next check-up would be on New Year’s Eve and we knew that they were likely to be ready to go at that time. When the day arrived, both raccoons passed their release evaluation and were taken to a very nice spot for a young raccoon to enter the Wild, a place remote from human houses, in a healthy ecosystem with a lot of excellent food.

Evaluation for release includes behavior such as wild food recognition and fear of people, physically, each raccoon must be in good health and fully functional, and a weight check – raccoons must be a certain size before they can considered for release.

In our raccoon housing, we have an artificial river which we use to help them learn that fish and other aquatic creatures are delicious and found in water. When taken to a real river, they know what to do!

Exploring the new world takes time… both raccoons exhibited a very cautious approach after they came out of their carriers. Studies have shown that wild animals who approach novel situations with caution and even fear, do better at avoiding the dangers of the human-built world. Protecting the wildness of our patients is as important as treating their injuries. 

Our last glimpse of these raccoons before they left for the surrounding Wild… and excellent way to close out the year!

Caring for raccoons is challenging and rewarding. Raccoons are very intelligent and seek mental stimulation. Keeping them wild and fearful of humans is difficult – they’re smart enough to read our actions. So we adopt a hands off approach once they are weaned. Our housing is designed to be a teacher – a safe place to explore an imitation wild environment, complete with moving water, grasses, hidden insects, eggs, prey items, and fruits (mostly zucchini!) that we put in branches they must climb to reach.  We’re proud of the raccoons who graduate from our school! And we’re grateful to all who support our work and make our raccoon program the success that it is!

Now our raccoon housing is empty, which gives us the needed time to make repairs and improvements for our next season which is only four months away! Want to help us out? Donate today! Thank you!!


Raccoons Orphaned by Trapping in Care Now

Every Spring it’s the same story: a Raccoon is seen around the home, going into a crawlspace, maybe heard in the attic… and the human resident opens the phone book to find help. A quick call to the pest control company and soon they’re spending a couple dollars paying for that company to trap the Raccoon.

The Raccoon, eager to find food, is easily trapped (maybe not on the first try though, maybe first some other animal is trapped and loses his or her life too). The pest control company takes the Raccoon away (to be killed) and soon after, a day, two days, three days, Humboldt Wildlife Care Center gets a call: Raccoon babies can be heard behind a wall, next to the tub, in the attic – somewhere, making their small chattering sounds, hungry, cold and dying. We take those orphans into care. Without charge.  these are the lucky ones, the ones who are found. How many Raccoon orphans starve to death under houses and in attics after their mother has been trapped or shot is just anther unknowable tragic cost in world full of them.

This is exactly how our first Raccoon babes of 2017 came into care this weekend. Two days without their mother, who was trapped and killed, these babies are facing a terrible deficit. Warmth, fluids, and a gradual introduction to formula, which will sustain them until they are weaned in approximately 6 weeks, is the first step. If they make it through this process and recover from hypothermia and dehydration they’ll have another 10-12 weeks in captive care, learning to climb, hunt, fish and forage: in short, all the skills that their mother would have taught them. If all goes well, sometime in September or October, hopefully we’ll be posting a story like this one from a past Summer:

Killing mother Raccoons can be costly to a homeowner, and obviously the cost to the mother Raccoon is the greatest that can be paid, and the cost to her babies is higher than we’d wish on any youngsters. Yet, it happens every year, in every community, in every county, in every state. Every year we put out messages and pleas to not trap wildlife, especially in the Spring. In Spring, trapping a wild animal invariably leads to orphans. It is senseless, stupid and needs to stop. We need your help. Spread the word. Trapping is cruel, costly, immoral and ineffective. If you have a conflict with a wild animal, seek humane help, such as we offer every day of the year.

On this Mother’s Day, how about spreading some of that love and appreciation to wild mamas who need us to learn to live with them peacefully and humanely.

If you’d like to contribute to the cost of caring for this unfortunate mother’s young, please donate here now. Thank you!!



Raccoons Raring to Re-enter the Real (video and photos)

[Help support our efforts to raise healthy, wild orphans and also prevent disruptions to wild families in the first place. Please contribute to our Fall campaign today. Every donation helps!]

Each year at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, we can expect to treat a certain number of orphaned raccoons (Procyon lotor). Although we engage in outreach to promote humane solutions to denning mother raccoons, trying to keep wild families together, the simple fact is that several times each Spring and Summer we admit small groups of raccoon babies whose mothers have been either shot or trapped and “relocated” (illegal and inhumane, usually results in the death of the mother and, unless they are found and taken to a wildlife rehabilitator, the death of her babies that remain). On average we raise 20 to 30 raccoon babies at our Northern California clinic every season. This year we’ve had 25 (19 right now!) babies in care.

Although caring for orphaned raccoons is a common task for wildlife rehabilitators across the continent, it’s a very specialized skill, requiring experience, commitment, financial resources and appropriate housing. Without a mother who will show them the ways of the world, orphaned raccoons in care must learn to hunt, forage, climb, fish in rivers and most importantly remain wild and “untamed.” One of the cutest animals, people often try to raise raccoons as pets. This is never a good idea. Raccoons are wild animals, not pets, and deserve their freedom as much we deserve ours.

At BAX/HWCC we put a lot of effort into making sure the raccoons we care for eat the most natural and nutritionally complete diet we can provide. We place great emphasis on keeping a solid barrier between them and us, their care providers. Their survical depends on their fear of humans. An orphaned raccoon’s best shot at a happy life depends on all of these elements.

After four months in care, we just recently released the first 6 youngsters who were ready to begin their lives back in the wild. Check out the video and the photos – watch wild raccoons enter the wild for the first time since they lost their mama…

raccoon 2015 2nd release - 02

Raccoon 2015 first release - 09The first whiff of freedom (and a real river!)

Raccoon 2015 first release - 16Over the river and into the woods, to Grandmother’s house they go.

Raccoon 2015 first release - 30Just a few steps from the cloaking device that mother Earth provides all her children…

raccoon 2015 2nd release - 15

Raccoon 2015 first release - 50Taken with a zoom lens, one last view before these youngsters ‘disappear’ into the real world!

As with all we do, it’s your support that makes it possible. Thank YOU!


all photos: BAX/Laura Corsiglia; video BAX/Matt Gunn