Those who know me (and my genetic pre-disposition) are fully aware that I am an Ellie May Clampette re-incarnate – I only lack a cement pond (and money). I come by my “gift” naturally. My dad is also an amateur wildlife rehabber and my brother has been known to take in a furry or feathered or scaled orphan or two.
My dad has stories of a multitude of wild “pets” that range from boyhood memories to nurtured bird babies that were fairly recent. He tried his mother’s (and wife’s ) patience more than once – and to this I can relate…I am regularly getting the sideward’s look for whatever “helpless” creature I am befriending.
We have raised everything from insects to mammals to reptiles to birds…amphibians to fish…fortunately, not all at the same time. My dad has stories of a hatching Praying Mantis pod that resulted in his mother swatting frantically at Mantids much to his upset and dismay. He has tamed a shrew, raised and released countless birds from bare to fully feathered and flying, and reared baby squirrels and rabbits. The irony of this…he is not allowed to have a dog – but that would be a story for another day.
It’s not as if we go out and look for these family additions; it truly is a gift (or a curse if you are the less enthusiastic spouse). Orphaned or injured animals seem to fall in our lap and amazingly – calm in our presence. I am not going to suggest that all of our pairings end in success or happiness; but it isn’t for lack of effort and compassion. Sometimes it ends up just plain ugly…like when the chipmunk I rescued from drowning got smashed and died in the boy’s overly messy bedroom (how he got into that environment is a complete story in itself) or how the numerous baby bunnies (whether captured or not) end up as snacks for my otherwise non-foraging dogs.
Recently, this little bugger made its presence known.
It (I say “it” because I have never been very proficient at sexing a young animal – the five kittens were testimony to that) was curled up in the middle of the yard behind the neighbor’s garage. Bella, our Golden Retriever, was barking at something over the fence and Jay, being the ever curious type that he is….told me to go see what it was. Within a few feet of getting to the fence, I could see that it was an animal of some kind. Since we have a neighbor that has been trapping (and potentially poisoning) wildlife that they are “annoyed” by, I was concerned that it was sick or potentially dangerous to our animals. I went and got heavy gloves (yea, I am compassionate – but only 50% stupid…and we will get to that later)(and I have been admonished for retrieving a bat before too) and a towel and proceeded to determine if this was a “rescue” or a “removal.” I could see, clearly, that the animal was still alive as I got within about three feet…but I also immediately recognized how young the poor thing was. I wrapped it up in the towel and got it to a place where I could take a look at it.
It didn’t have any outward signs of injury, other than a potentially bobbed tail – but that might just be the length of it – despite the intense interest of a large tom cat that had been hanging around stalking it. (At first that was what Jay thought the dog was barking at.) So I proceeded to see if it appeared ill by observing all the obvious signs – indication of severe diarrhea (wet tail), runny nose, matted eyes, missing fur, etc… (OK, I know I am not a Veterinarian, but some of this just comes naturally to me – maybe it is mother’s instinct.). It was chilled and we figured it had to have been in the damp grass for a while – so my first goal was to warm it back up….and name it! 😎
So….say hello to Gizmo!
Gizmo, or Gizzy, is estimated to be about 6-7 weeks old. It still likes to nurse, so we feed it with a bottle but have been giving it “solids” as well – mostly canned cat food. Unfortunately, I have determined – that despite the fact that the canned food is well received to the palate – it is a bit early and has caused loose stool. A large amount of which landed all over me this morning after its bottle feeding…this also reinforced the similarities I have been noticing between baby raccoons and human babies.
- If you feed them both an “infant” formula, regardless if it is species specific or not, the poop smells the same. Unfortunately, I have not figured out how to diaper Gizmo effectively. Though, we are currently working on litter training it.
- If you feed a baby…the very next reflex is pooping. Up until this morning, I have managed to relocate Gizzy to the cage before all hell breaks loose – literally.
- Babies, regardless of species, when awake – do not like to be alone. And they will vocally inform you of this. Gizzy will call out until one of us, or Bella, come into the room and interacts – either verbally or preferably physically.
- Babies , regardless of species, are fast learners. It knows to come to the door to get picked up and bottle fed AND (though this could be completely coincidental) it appeared to use the litter box this morning. It also seems to know it is safe…despite the two extremely large canines that keep visiting its cage.
- Babies, regardless of species, and especially when very young…do not particularly like baths.
- Babies, regardless of species, like to suck on things. Gizzy will suck on your finger (but will also attempt to teeth on it), and has even been caught sucking on its own “thumb”. It did not take long for it to get the hang of the bottle, despite the fact that it is likely a very un-natural feeling for nursing.
I am also aware of the rabies vector species risk with raccoons. Like I said earlier, I am only 50% stupid. I tend to switch my stupid on when cute little animals are involved and when I am responding to an emergency situation where I will tend to throw my own safety to the wayside. While I know there is no true guarantee without a neural post mortem test (whether the animal shows signs or not) to determine if a raccoon is rabid without symptoms, common sense, research and a conversation with a vet have helped me understand both the risks and the potential (or lack of ) that this particular baby is infected. Have I been as careful as I could have been….no. And hopefully, that will not be an issue. As young as this raccoon is, it is likely that its very first time away from its mother was due to a separation that it had no control over…meaning that it would have had only one exposure – the mom. A baby this age would progress through the disease very quickly due to size and therefore symptoms would probably (no guarantee of course) already be apparent or it would not have survived this long. Of course, I am always going to err on the side of optimistic, because if it ends up that it is a sick coon – I will NEVER hear the end of it.
Also, despite the fact that it is absolutely adorable, I have made an effort to contact a qualified wildlife rehabber. While I could have been far more aggressive in my efforts to have the animal removed from my care – I am also very realistic to the fact that raccoons are not a high priority save species in our region, both due to size of the population and the rabies risk – I know that in all likelihood this animal would have been destroyed, and that makes me sad. They are often a nuisance, and have been for us at times but I cannot bring myself to not brake for a squirrel in the road how could I possibly hand down a death sentence to a baby? I also struggle with the hundreds of warnings for potential risks of rabies contamination due to interaction – but nowhere does it say anything about the risks when trapping and skinning them for the hides (this isn’t intended to be a hunting/trapping debate) so I wonder if there is just a movement to justify raccoon genocide by whatever means necessary. If we can get enough people paranoid about them crawling through our trash bins and calling animal control – they can be removed and destroyed with public acceptance. I don’t know…just a thought from a fuzzy critter lover.
Either way, Gizmo is ridiculously cute – for now; and eventually, I am sure we will have to make a transition. Also, by keeping it close and under our observation – if it were to develop an illness, I am able to go and get the necessary medical care sooner rather than when it is too late…because honestly, I probably wouldn’t have done anything any differently than I did – it’s just who I am. 😎
Thanks for stopping by….