Raccoon Returns to WildCare After 13 Years

WildCare raises hundreds of orphaned mammals every year in our Wildlife Hospital.

We have many protocols in place to ensure that our orphaned baby patients grow up healthy and wild, and we always hope that we are teaching them the skills they’ll need to thrive once they are released.

But how do we know for sure that our released patients are successful once we’ve let them go?

WildCare microchips the mammals we release, and we scan every mammal we admit to see if a patient is a returning one. Very occasionally we get a beep!

While we don’t have the resources to satellite tag and track our animals in real time post-release, in 2006 we started microchipping our mammal patients prior to release.

The microchips that we use are the same as those used for domestic pets. They are not real-time tracking devices; the animal must be in hand to be scanned to reveal a chip. When the scanner detects a chip, it beeps and shows the chip’s individual number on the scanner screen.

In the case of domestic animals you would call the chip company and they would provide the owner information associated with that chip number. For our patients, we enter the chip number into our patient database and the patient record that is associated with that chip comes up. Because each WildCare patient is assigned their own individual patient number, we know that their history is uniquely their own.

Every single mammal patient that is admitted into WildCare’s Hospital is scanned in search of a microchip. It doesn’t happen often that we get a beep, but when we do, it is incredibly exciting for us to learn how our patient fared. Utilizing data from our database of wildlife patients, we can also gather a wide range of helpful information from a single beep, from how long an animal of a certain species may survive, to how far a particular animal may travel.

These baby raccoons were approximately this age when they were admitted to WildCare. Photo by Alison Hermance

Imagine our team’s excitement when this raccoon elicited that beep! Upon researching our database, we discovered she had been a baby in care at WildCare in 2007!

She and her brother had arrived at the Wildlife Hospital after homeowners had botched an exclusion attempt. They had attempted to evict the mother raccoon from under their home, but had inadvertently locked her out of her den. By the time the two babies were rescued, they were too dehydrated and ill to attempt a reunite.

Only 110 grams in weight on intake, these babies were so young that their eyes were not even open! The two sibling raccoons were raised through various stages of development in Foster Care by trained WildCare Foster Care Volunteers JoLynn, Anne and Stephen.

Our raccoon as a youngster explores a tree with her brother. Photo by Anne Barker/Stephen Shaw

With our team’s diligent care, the orphaned raccoons graduated from every-three-hours bottle feeds to, months later, learning to eat solids and forage for their own food. As they grew, they graduated to larger naturalized enclosures and took advantage of every opportunity to exercise and explore (see tree climbing to the right and more photos of “supervised play time” below!)

After five months in care (a typical care interval for orphaned baby raccoons) they were ready for release! Because they were late season babies and the winter weather can be particularly challenging for juveniles trying to make their way, this pair was slow-released near JoLynn’s home on Christmas Eve 2007.

JoLynn had seen this female raccoon (above, center) with an unusual tail moving through her yard with her babies for many years. She had clearly been thriving in the wild! Photo by JoLynn Taylor

For many years afterwards, JoLynn frequently saw a raccoon passing through her yard, foraging for grubs and eating the persimmons from her tree. The raccoon was wild and one of several in the area, but she had a shorter than usual tail with oddly textured fur, likely from a bout of mange. The tail made her recognizable.

In spring this particular raccoon would even bring her babies through the yard to teach them how to forage. JoLynn liked to imagine that she was one of the rescued raccoons she had cared for but had no way of knowing for sure.

When staff tracked down this raccoon’s old patient records in our database (she was patient #1107 in 2007), the records confirmed that she had been slow released near JoLynn’s house. A glance at her tail confirmed that this was the mother raccoon JoLynn had been seeing every spring, and that she was one of WildCare’s Foster Care babies. It was particularly amazing for JoLynn to confirm that the successful, adult, very wild mama raccoon who had been tracking through her yard for all these years was in fact that same baby, and that she had maintained a territory that included JoLynn’s persimmon tree for 13 years!

After sedating the raccoon, WildCare’s veterinarian Dr. Sorem checks her heart. Like many elderly people, she has a heart murmur. Photo by Alison Hermance

For all of us who care for raccoons at WildCare, it is wonderful to have concrete proof that our protocols for care produce healthy wild animals that not only survive, but also successfully raise young of their own!

Conventional wisdom is that the average lifespan for a raccoon in the wild is 2 – 3 years. They can live 15 – 20 years in captivity, but even by that standard, this raccoon is elderly!That she has survived this long truly is extraordinary.

It hadn’t all been easy for this mother raccoon, however.

Her exam in the Clinic showed that she was very thin and dehydrated with lots of fleas, and teeth that are significantly worn. She also has a healing fracture on her back leg, probably from being hit by a car. Although it’s not a new injury, the injured knee was what probably led to this raccoon’s being found and brought to WildCare. She was spotted “sleeping” in the playground of a preschool and, when she didn’t run away as a normal raccoon should, the school staff called Marin Humane to capture and transport her to our care. Her current prognosis is “guarded,” as her condition and advanced age make healing difficult.

WildCare does our work to heal and rescue wild animal patients like this raccoon every single day. We know we’re making a difference for the individual animals, and for the people who rescue them, but it is a rare experience to have solid evidence that the animals in our care have thrived in the wild for far beyond the average lifespan for their species.

Special thanks to JoLynn, Anne and Stephen for sharing their photos and memories of this extraordinary  raccoon! And to all of our dedicated Foster Care Volunteers who spend countless hours caring for these orphans!

Click here to donate now to help WildCare raise our orphaned raccoons and always be ready for the next wildlife patient!

Photo Gallery

These photos were taken by Anne and Stephen when our raccoon patient and her brother were in Foster Care. “Supervised play time” includes fun with water features, interesting things to eat, and even tree climbing, all skills they’ll need in the wild! Click each image to see a larger version.

This entry was posted in Wildlife Patient Stories by Alison Hermance.

20 Responses to “Raccoon Returns to WildCare After 13 Years”

  1. maureen

    Wonderful story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  2. Gloria

    I love to see the photos. clearly this beautiful animal was dearly loved.

    Reply
  3. Margaret Wood

    Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  4. Monica

    What an inspirational, heart-warming story! I hope this elderly, resilient lady racoon can survive her current ordeal and get to enjoy more life.

    Reply
  5. Connie

    How wonderful to know their efforts paid off. Thank you for the many volunteers who gladly give of their time to have a good result.

    Reply
  6. C e wall

    We raised v wild animals like this and song birds on the coast in Savannah. I b hope some of ours were half as lucky as this girl
    Great story and I n hope v she hangs in t huh ere

    Reply
  7. Sharon Ponsford

    What a wonderful story. Just loved it!! As a longtime foster mom to orphaned raccoons, I know we always wonder what happens to our little charges when they are released and on their own. This is a success story beyond our wildest dreams. It sounds like her life hasn’t exactly been easy, but she is a survivor for sure. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Reply
  8. Tim Midboe

    What a beautiful story. Thank you for all you do!!

    Reply
  9. Crystal

    Beautiful heartwarming story. Its a real testament to the life that can be provided to all animals when the right people, care, and intention are involved. Really loved reading this.

    Reply
  10. Hayley Hesseln

    I’ve been using your protocols to raise orphaned raccoons in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada since 2014. I operate Bandit Ranch Rehab from my home in the city. To date, I’ve raised over 260 (93 last year alone). I’m grateful to you for all the advice and this wonderful story – I’ve often wondered if I’m doing the right thing.

    Reply
  11. Lynne Brown

    I volunteer at Marin Humane, and have nothing but praise for all you that care for animal friends! This is a wonderful story!!

    Reply
  12. Connie D.

    I loved this story!

    Reply
  13. Ute Brandon

    Lovely story! What would we all do without Wildcare!!!

    Reply
  14. Pam

    Wow! Way to go Wildcare! Such inspiration for us in the Midweest as we quickly approach baby season.
    I have had returns up to eight years, but this brought tears. Keep up your great work!!

    Reply
  15. Roz Schneider

    This story reminds me how lucky we all are to have you!

    Reply
    • Jill Goodfriend

      Oh what a heart-warming story! My face is hurting because I’ve been smiling as I read the story and studied each photo! Thank you very much! It is such a gift when we witness that all our dedication and hard work pays off!

      Reply
  16. Lillian

    JoLynn was my raccoon mentor for many years and her guidance let me raise and release many raccoons in 10+ years. I am still a licensed rehabilitator (NW Michigan), however, due to a serious health situation at home I no longer take babies and miss them so much.

    Reply
  17. Marc

    Wonderful story. Thanks for sharing. Great to know there are caring people out there.

    Reply
  18. Diana Lee Roche'

    What an inspiring story. Made me miss my wildlife rehab days here in Arizona. I always wondered if the raccoons I released had a long and successful life. (We didn’t chip in the old days.) Thanks for sharing stories. Visited your wonderful rehab about 10 years ago. Thanks for the great work you do.

    Reply
  19. Judith Gottesman

    What a wonderful story.

    Reply

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