We discovered the family of raccoons climbing in our neighbor’s trees the previous October. One night I heard a sound in the back yard and got brave with my flashlight. I ran from a bear once when I was 7 years old. Long story short my Aussie childhood crush, who was 10 years my senior, carried me on his shoulders as he ran like lightning because we walked between a mama bear and her cub. They attack for a reason – to protect or to eat. And since then when faced with animal eyes I scream and run. Which is exactly what I did when the light of my torch reflected those bandit eyes looking back at me.
There were 5 raccoons in total my husband later told me. He had gone back outside after I freaked him out. I grew up on the reserve where we didn’t have raccoon issues. I was totally oblivious to how raccoons live in the city.
I grew up watching the cartoon “The Raccoons”. Thinking back I realize I while I got the message to take care of the earth, I didn’t put myself in the raccoon’s place. I watched it like a child, for the story and the cute characters. I must have internalized the concept of protect the earth from corporate disasters. And the people in this cartoon, the pink long snout creatures were characterized more like actual people, rich pink people. It was always a battle for them, every week. Fighting to save, fighting to destroy, fighting over the earth.
In real life though, it is their eyes; their bandit look, sneaky cleaver nature that get them in trouble. They were troublemakers to the new arrivals – a pest, not worth rescuing, not worth saving. At least that was what the BC Ministry of Environment was promoting since 1905.
So the following spring (this past) as I was tending to my garden, I heard a loud screech. Nothing else, no bang, bark, or lady screech. Then I heard it again. I don’t recall ever hearing such a sound, not to mention the fact that I’d never actually seen a baby raccoon in my life. He screeched again, this time I recognized it was baby cries.
When I finally found him I couldn’t believe what I was looking at was a raccoon. He looked like a long nosed kitten with barely open black raccoon eyes. It occurred to me that I hadn’t seen or heard any raccoons for a few days.
He fell about 8ft from the rafters of my shed May 24th around 2pm. My daughters and I watched it for a bit as it squealed. I had read somewhere or heard something about not putting your scent on the baby or the mother will reject it, so I put gloves on and carefully put him back in the rafters. About 4 hours later I found him again on the ground. I was very sad and worried for his life. He fell eight feet to the ground twice and didn’t die. I called a local vet but instead of telling me how to feed it, he found it odd that someone might want to even consider saving it. So I went to Wal-mart and bought a baby bottle and some kitty formula.
The day we found him was a hectic. Trying to get the raccoon baby to drink kitty formula and find him a new home was a lot harder than I had imagined. Baby bottles are designed for human babies and raccoon babies have small mouths. The flow must equal suck action I called around asking for help. Instead I found some disturbing information and have come to the conclusion that the ministry of wildlife/environment had been telling local organizations that Raccoons are not indigenous species to the Okanagan and therefore are not to be rehabilitated.
Effectively they were promoting animal cruelty.
I thought to my self “I understand raccoons can become over abundant in urban situations but to flat out exclude them from being rehabilitated is inhumane. Other areas of BC are allowed to rehabilitate raccoons but not here in the Okanagan. Why?”
After visiting and phoning a number of Wildlife organizations I got a huge explanation from the Wildlife Zoo on how they only came here 50 or so years ago and their policy is to not rehabilitate “pest” species. He gave me specific boundaries in which raccoons inhabit which did not include the Okanagan Valley. I could tell in his voice he was very sincere and speaking honestly. I could only conclude that at some point in his career he was given this information to promote as being true.
The principle of the problem lies within the government’s discretionary exclusion of humane practice within a specific region and misinforming the general public as to the inherent territory of this native species.
Raccoons are in our sqilxw legends and our elders know their name ma-who-ya7 Their name is much older than this government and to legislate that this creature shall receive no rehabilitation within our territory is inhumane. This systematic extermination tactic is cruel and inhumane.
After reading the cruel text on the Ministry of Environment website I called the Acting Deputy Minister and gave her a piece of my ancestors knowledge and the law of this land.
We are the stewards, the caretakers of this land and were handed down the responsibility of taking care of the animals that have taken care of us since Senklip transformed them.
The good part to the conversation I had with the BC Wildlife Zoo in Kamloops was that they had room to take him. We fed him as well as we could but it was almost not enough as I learned after the Wildlife Zoo picked him up. When he arrived there he was checked over and was dehydrated. Just goes to show it isn’t easy to hand raise a baby animal. And he was lucky to be a baby because the Zoo only had room for babies.
He’s in good hands tho, Tara and the other handlers are doing an excellent job of educating the public on the mysteries of this intelligent creature