Two months ago, if you had told me that I would be chasing wildlife in someone’s yard, I would have laughed at you. Well, here I am, one month into my internship at the wildlife shelter doing just that.
A big role of a wildlife rehabber is safely removing wildlife from local residential areas. Ideally, these animals should be left in their habitat. We try to deter people from disturbing these animals, but sometimes it is in the animal’s best interest for us to intervene. At least when we remove the animal, we know that it will be handled humanely. Otherwise, the homeowner may take extreme measures to remove the critter, which can cause injury to both parties.
Friday, we received two calls about raccoons, both of which appeared to be injured. We quickly loaded up the van and headed a few miles down the road to our first location. A woman suspected that an injured raccoon was living in her yard. We arrived to find said raccoon resting quietly under her rhododendrons. With a large fishing net, we quickly captured him, only for him to burst through it! He then scampered up a tree and practically laughed at our efforts. With several more failed attempts to catch him, we determined that he was in healthy enough condition to thrive without our intervention.
Our second adventure was to another residential area. The construction workers on the property had caught a raccoon under a trash can and were waiting for us to arrive. They had called in to notify us that the raccoon appeared ill and in poor condition. This season, Bainbridge Island is having a terrible distemper epidemic. Based on the description of the raccoon, we knew almost immediately that he was showing signs of the disease. When we tipped the garbage can over, we found an emaciated raccoon with an eye discharge and matted fur from diarrhea. These are classic signs of distemper, a highly contagious, lethal disease. We safely captured him and returned him to the shelter. Unfortunately, due to the high risk of transmission and grave prognosis, the raccoon had to be euthanized. It is a hard realization that we cannot save every animal but good to know that he was able to pass peacefully.
Wildlife rescue is no joke. We spent a great amount of time in our efforts to attempt to catch two raccoons. I left that day covered in dirt and finding leaves in places that I couldn’t have imagined. We were one for one in our raccoon rescue, but I left that day feeling good about the hard work we had put in.