It's that time of year again. The orphaned Raccoons that we raised at PAWS during the summer are now starting to head back out the door to resume the wild lives that are their birthright. They are released in small groups—some are brothers and sisters that arrived at the PAWS Wildlife Center as family units, while others are comprised of unrelated individuals that were raised together.
On release day, the world must seem very big and a little bit scary. The last time most of these Raccoons were in the wild, they were tiny infants in a warm, safe den. Whether the groups are genetically related or not, they always stick close to one another at release. It's their own version of the "buddy system", and it seems to boost their confidence, perhaps because there are more eyes and ears nearby to help spot danger.
On September 11, we released the first Raccoon group of the year at a large natural area managed by King County Parks. The following photos tell the story of the release.
The Raccoons are usually very wary when the carrier door is opened. After exiting, they may stay within reach of the carrier for several minutes. This youngster held onto the door while assessing his surroundings.
Raccoons are drawn to water, so we always try to release them near a good water source. At this release, the carriers were set on the bank of a stream.
As expected, the water proved irresistible to the Raccoons. This female dipped her hands in the cold water and began feeling around for tasty morsels.
The release site had abundant trees and good brushy cover. The Raccoons seemed to approve.
As the sun set, a parade of bushy, ringed tails could be seen receding into the distance. Furry, masked faces swung left and right with ears and noses twitching. Night fell and The Wild embraced her six prodigal children.