Megan Abbott and her Rescued Raccoons

Nurturing Nature’s Cutest Creatures

author: Meghan Abbott

Written by: Meghan Abbott

Project Manager

04.15.2021

  • Culture

The Wild Life Of Raising Raccoons

My love of animals is no secret. If the cat tattoo on my foot doesn’t give it away, the four felines living at my house might. I’ve been known to attract a stray or two, and pick up lost dogs from the side of the road to unite with their owners. I’ve stayed up late and bottle-fed many tiny kittens when the shelters were overcrowded and they needed a warm lap to substitute for mom. It should have been a surprise to no one, then, when I came home one day with four baby raccoons.

I volunteer as a foster through Wisconsin Wildcare, a network of wildlife rehabilitators in South Central Wisconsin that cares for orphaned and injured wild animals, from squirrels to raccoons to possums and everything in between. In 2020, Wisconsin Wildcare helped approximately 1,100 animals. On top of the large commitment and long hours, the organization is 100% volunteer-run, relying on donations and generous individuals to open their homes (and sometimes, wallets) to care for these animals. It’s hard work but watching them grow and forming a relationship with them is beyond rewarding. When they’re strong enough to venture off on their own, we release them back into the wild to live the lives they were meant to.

I released my second litter this past fall, but started the year prior with four: Blue, Bear, Meeko, and Raven. Their mother had been exterminated and the babies were found in the walls of someone’s home. When they came to me, they had just started to open their eyes! Every morning, and five times a day, I would mix and warm up a bottle of formula and teach them how to drink and—as they got older—how to play. When I got the call that they had found another orphan all on his own, we gained one more: Charlie. They accepted him as their brother right away … and me, as their adoptive mother.

Did you know raccoons purr when they’re young? Now you do.

I can’t explain how incredible it feels to be completely trusted by these sweet, gentle creatures, to have them wrap their little fingers around yours and stare up at you with adoration and purr. The pest industry has given them a bad reputation, but after spending time with them, how anyone could call them vermin is beyond me. They have the independence of a cat, the playfulness of a dog, and a spirit that is all their own.

After multiple daily feedings and socialization over many months, I watched these tiny helpless baby orphans grow up into full-fledged, tree-climbing, mature raccoons. Without Wisconsin Wildcare and our donors, they would never have had the chance. Soon, they outgrew their indoor caging and transitioned to the large covered outdoor kennel where they could climb and play to their heart’s content. Release day was bittersweet. I knew they were ready to explore the world but they were and still are my babies and I would miss them. Luckily for me, I still get a visit from them occasionally. Months later, Raven even brought her own babies to meet me.

If you’re interested in fostering, reach out to a wildlife organization in your area. You won’t regret it.

Raising and releasing raccoons can be costly and tiring. We rely on fundraising to help pay for formula, vet costs, hard food, equipment, caging, and more. We rely on the kindness of other volunteers to love and care for these creatures. And even more so, we rely on ourselves to have the strength to let them go when the time comes.

If you’re interested in fostering, reach out to a wildlife organization in your area. You won’t regret it.

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