Can a Pet Raccoon Ever Make It in The Wild?
Yes, Michelle Mankin says. Michelle is president and founder of A Critters Chance, an Indiana wild life rehabilitation and rescue organization. Michelle and her team successfully rehab pet raccoons over a period of two months to a year’s time, depending on the animal’s age, personality and health picture. A Critter’s Chance rescued 24 raccoons in the summer of 2010 alone, all from disillusioned pet raccoon owners. Three of the animals had to be euthanized due to contagious disease, but the rest were released back to their native habitat. .
How to Rehabilitate a Former Pet Raccoon
A raccoon who has lived in captivity must be desensitized to humans. There are three steps Michelle takes when rehabilitating a pet raccoon.
Reintroduce Outdoor Sounds, Smells and Tastes
Step One: Keep the raccoon in a big outside cage so it can become accustomed to outdoor sounds and smells. Introduce elements of a natural habitat, such as a dead empty log for the raccoon to sleep in.
Step Two: Feed the raccoon only natural food. No plastic water bottles, no bowls. Just bugs, berries, leaves, rodents. Anything the raccoon could find in the wild.. Raccoons are omnivores.
Step Three: Keep humans away from the raccoon. As long as the animal sees and smells humans delivering food and care, it will always expect that kind of service, and will not be wary of human scents. The rehabilitators at Critter’s Chance wear disguises to deliver food. Michelle says she dresses in a brown robe and hood when near the cages. This masks civilized smells and eliminates face or eye contact with the raccoon. The point: The animal has to learn how to find food in nature, independent of human beings. It cannot associate it with humans. In fact, for its own health, it needs to distrust humans, not depend on them. Usually it takes several months before a once-captive raccoon can be released.
Neutered Raccoons Should Not be Rehabilitated.
A Critter’s Chance does not even try to rehabilitate raccoons who have been spayed or neutered, because the animals have such strong breeding instincts. They can literally go mad because they cannot mate during mating season. A pet raccoon owner who no longer wants the neutered animal is basically condemning it to life in a cage.
Why You Can’t Keep Rocky Raccoon as an Outdoor Pet.
Why is it necessary for raccoons to be desensitized to humans in order to survive? Wouldn’t it be cute if Rocky Raccoon lived in the forest, and just came back for visits and snacks? No. He would probably destroy your house, fence, barn, and/or garden in his attempt to get back inside to the source of food and comfort. Also, he would assume all humans are as accommodating as you are, not know to stay away from them, and probably get shot.
When Is a Former Pet Raccoon Ready to Be Released?
When the raccoon is back on a natural nocturnal schedule, and when it becomes aggressive or threatening to humans, Michelle knows its defense mechanisms are back in place. Hopefully, once the cage door opens, Rocky will take off and never look back.
More about A Critter’s Chance.
This not-for-profit organization specializes in wildlife rehabilitation and exotic/domestic pet rescue. Although based in Indiana, the group helps people and organizations throughout the country. Not only do the team members rehabilitate animals to be released back into their native habitat, they also retrieve and care for abandoned and orphaned animals. They work with local animal shelters and rescue groups to arrange exotic and domestic pet adoptions as well. A Critter’s Chance offers educational programs throughout central Indiana to both the public and private sectors. Their mission: To be a voice for the animals.
Go to the Department of Natural Resources site for your state to find licensed rehabilitators.
A Critter’s Chance, Michelle Mankin