By Jen Mannas, Wildlife Naturalist
We are currently treating more than 250 patients at PAWS Wildlife Center so, needless to say, our staff and volunteers are quite busy. Some of our patients like our Raccoon kits require more long-term care than others.
We are currently caring for 41 young Raccoons. Our first orphan arrived on May 13 and our last on June 26. These youngsters will be in our care until their release this fall. The majority of them are not related and came from different areas in western Washington.
When many of the Raccoon kits arrive, they weigh just over a pound and their eyes are still closed. This is the most vulnerable stage of their lives, and they are kept in an incubator for warmth as they cannot properly regulate their own body temperature. Staff, interns and advanced volunteers spend hours each day tube feeding them and cleaning our two Raccoon nurseries.
After several weeks of care in the nurseries, the kits are weaned and big enough to graduate to an outside enclosure, the Raccoon silos, where they remain until the fall.
In the silos, which are secluded from other patients and from us, they learn to climb and search for food. As you can imagine, Raccoons can make quite a mess, so our interns and volunteers are kept very busy with cleaning all four silos daily. This can take hours because not only does everything have to be cleaned, it must also be disinfected to keep our little patients healthy.
Enrichment is one of the most important things for Raccoons. They are very intelligent and have very sensitive hands. We introduce them to a variety of materials in their enclosures, which keeps them curious and busy and stimulates their senses. They also have pools to play in to beat the heat and natural items such as logs and branches to climb on and search for food. However, the majority of the day is spent sleeping on a specially made platforms above the ground in a pile.
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