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Summer Camp for 15 Orphaned Raccoons

 
CAPE WILDLIFE CENTER ©2007
Young raccoons bob for fruit treats at the Cape Wildlife Center.

When 15 orphaned raccoons came to the Cape Wildlife Center in May, the season shaped up into something resembling a summer camp for the mischievous mammals.

Admitted as cuddly, helpless orphans, the baby raccoons were bottle-fed and then weaned onto solid foods when they were eight weeks old. Once the weather heated up, the juvenile raccoons were big enough to leave their nursery for their outside digs. In the wild juvenile raccoons stay with their mother throughout the summer and disperse in the fall, although it is not unusual for young raccoons to spend their first winter with their mother.

No Cabins in This Camp

The raccoons camped out under the stars in heavy wire mesh structures outfitted with all the basic necessities: a waterproof roof and a built-in sleeping shelf. The critters were even able to cool off and "fish" for food in their pool or practice climbing on trees. The young raccoons used their enclosure decorations (hollow logs, tree limbs, hanging milk crates, balls, puzzle feeders, and tire swings) to learn to climb, manipulate objects with their hands, and gain strength as they grew.

Lessons at Play

 
CAPE WILDLIFE CENTER ©2007
Raccoons enjoy their hammock,where they both sleep and play.

In order to keep the campers stimulated and active, our staff periodically created new climbing routes by moving tree branches. Attached tree limbs and plastic pipes on bungee cords replicated the movement of trees in the wind. More than just keeping the young raccoons on their toes, the unsteady trees taught them that not all branches will support an animal's weight.

Hollow logs—great places to play hide and seek with other campers during a wrestling match—taught raccoons how to escape and hide from predators in the wild. The animals also had to forage for snacks—'fruitsicles" (ice cubes with fruit inside), peanut butter pine cones and banana kabobs—that were hidden throughout the enclosure.

A day at raccoon camp is strenuous, and by 2:30 each afternoon, most of the campers were fast asleep taking a much needed nap. But fueled with a good meal, the young raccoons were ready to continue their activities late into the night—true to their natural nocturnal instincts.

Keeping Raccoon Families Together

Though the raccoons were a raucous good time to have at the Cape Wildlife Center, their need for our services points to a larger problem. Habitat destruction caused by human encroachment is even more threatening during birthing season.

If a tree that a mother raccoon selects as her birthing den is cut down, she often loses her babies. If a mother raccoon decides that someone's chimney would make a good place to give birth, she faces eviction by the homeowner. Both situations hold disastrous consequences for the wildlife family.

The Cape Wildlife Center is working closely with Humane Wildlife Solutions (HWS), a new program of The Humane Society of the United States. This program uses non-lethal methods of managing human/wildlife conflict in urban settings, including the exclusion of wildlife from human structures. HWS is not a "nuisance wildlife cooperator," a term used for companies which frequently use lethal, cruel means of resolving conflict.

For instance when a resident contacts HWS regarding raccoons in his or her chimney, HWS humanely removes the mother and babies and reunite them outside of the house. Raccoon mothers are extremely devoted and will carry each baby to an alternate site for continued care.

For assistance or more information, residents of Cape Cod can reach Humane Wildlife Solutionss by dialing 508-362-3459. Residents of Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia can call 1-866-9HUMANE for help.

Related Links

  • Learn more about Humane Wildlife Services (HWS).
  • Click on the box (below) to watch the three minute video highlighting the Humane Wildlife Solutions team's effort to save baby birds and raccoons.

Posted September 19, 2007