Raccoons are one of only a handful of wild species that thrive even in the most urban environments. Despite their remarkable ability to adapt to life among humans, individual Raccoons often succumb to the dangers that are present in our cities and towns, and the PAWS Wildlife Center receives a steady stream of orphaned or displaced baby Raccoons throughout the spring and early summer months. Most of these kits are old enough to fend for themselves by August or September, at which point they are released into a suitable habitat to resume their wild lives.
Every so often, we receive a few Raccoon kits that were born much later in the summer. Such was the case last year with an orphaned brother and sister, and another unrelated female that were brought to us in September. Weighing less than two pounds each at admission, these three youngsters were not ready for release before winter arrived. Rather than releasing them in winter when food is scarce and the weather is unforgiving, we kept the Raccoons in our care until spring arrived.
On May 9, I returned the Raccoons to the wild on a beautiful piece of land containing hundred-year old trees, two ponds and a fast-flowing creek. After placing their release carrier near a dense stand of salmonberry and ferns next to the creek, I opened the door to set the Raccoons free. They exited the carrier slowly, and one of them turned around to inspect it from the outside.
The Raccoons did not stay by their release carrier long. Within minutes of the door opening, all three of them were rooting around in nearby leaf litter, searching for worms, beetles and other delicious snacks. I saw them pausing frequently to pop morsels into their mouths before continuing to forage.
Eventually, all three Raccoons wandered off into the gathering darkness toward the sound of the rushing creek. Although they had been in captivity for many months, they seemed completely at ease in their new, forested home.
As I write this, the Raccoons in our cities and towns are once again busy raising the next generation. To learn more about how to peacefully co-exist with your masked neighbors, visit the Raccoon page on the PAWS website.
- Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist