Raccoon Follies

No one is more fond of the steam punk trend than I am, but raccoons are definitely big fans as well.  Last year we had a raccoon with a Pepsi can lodged on his front foot and we can both attest to the fact that aluminum cans do not make good bracelets.  This week we had a young female raccoon wearing the broken top of a glass jar around her neck, like an Elizabethan collar.  While it was quite the fashion statement, we all felt it had to be removed before the other raccoons got jealous and tried to emulate her style.

One of the feral cat colony managers in the area has a family of raccoons that sneaks in and eats with the cats occasionally.  She noticed a few days ago that there was something a little unusual about one of the juvenile raccoons.  When she snapped a picture with her phone and zoomed in, it was apparent that there was something around the neck of the young raccoon.  After a couple days of trying to catch the youngster, she was able to get her in a trap and bring her in to Peace River Wildlife Center.

We anesthetized the raccoon and were able to slip the ragged glass off of her neck without causing any further damage.  Luckily for her, the glass was fairly dull and had caused only a superficial abrasion under her chin.  We treated the scraped skin and sent her home, to be released as soon as she awoke from her adventures in anesthesia. 

A couple years ago I helped rescue an adult raccoon with an intact glass jar on her head.  In the field I was able to just reach the jar with my “Nifty Nabber,” but even after a couple of tugs, I couldn’t get a good enough grip to pull the jar off of the raccoon’s head.  Although I had slithered into her den under a cabbage palm, I could not quite get close enough to grab the raccoon herself, as she shot out the back door.  Luckily the neighbors were able to catch her in a trap later that night.

After picking her up and transporting her to PRWC, I placed her under anesthesia and was amazed at how easily the glass jar just rolled off of her head once she was relaxed.  So quickly had this happened, in fact, that I hadn’t gotten any pictures of it on her head.  So I put it back on, snapped a photo, and then, of course, could not get it back off.  The harder I pulled, the more resistance I encountered.  Stopping to take a deep breath, I let the raccoon rest on the surgery table with her neck gently flexed and the jar rolled off again.  Sometimes we are our own worst enemies.

I was recounting this story as my team and I removed the broken top of the jar from the raccoon’s neck this week.  Anesthetizing a raccoon is always an adrenaline-pumping proposition.  They can be quite fierce little creatures and as a rabies-vector species, they require special precautions.  Finally getting her to a good plane of anesthesia, I removed the jar from her neck, only to realize I had again forgotten to take a picture of it on her neck without the anesthesia mask in place.  As I paused to consider putting the jar back on long enough to get a picture, three voices of reason (my rehabbers and the rescuer who were observing the proceedings) all called out at the same time, “NO!”  So much for my future career as a professional poker player.  If they could read my thoughts so easily about raccoon wrangling, I doubt very much that I would have a good poker face while holding a pair of aces.

The raccoon has been released back into the loving embrace of her family, who have apparently accepted her after her short stint as a Vanessa Ives stand-in on the set of Penny Dreadful.  I have decided to give up on my dream of being a gambler and stay at PRWC as the once and future veterinarian.  And raccoons in general will continue to amaze and entertain with the silly situations in which they continue to find themselves and from which we must extricate them.

by- Robin Jenkins, DVM