Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Those 16 Hours I Willingly Shared My Home with a Raccoon

Yes, you read that right. Yesterday started out like any normal day; I went for a run, ate breakfast, went to work, class, work, class, and then there was a baby raccoon. One of my classmates, E, and I heard this pitiful cry coming from the "jungle" (that's what the brushy/woody area where our building is located is called), but we couldn't figure out what creature was making that sound. We saw a ball of fur and watched it for 10 minutes before it finally looked up at us with its adorable masked face. We fell in love and soon all hope was lost for my professor to have our attention during class. Our other classmates gathered round, and one of them decided to call him Patrick in honor of the upcoming holiday. On the way to the Florida Wildlife Hospital, my classmate, J, and I decided to rename him because Patrick just didn't seem like a fitting name for something so adorable (and not a pink sea star). I have since been calling him Nugget cause he's so cute. We all went into class and made a pact that if Momma Nugget didn't come back for baby Nugget, then we would try and get him and take him to the Wildlife Hospital 10 miles down the road. Things got pretty quiet, so we thought Momma came back for him.
Nugget in the jungle

After an hour and a half in class, however, we came out and Nugget was still there. I volunteered to squeeze through the railings of the balcony and jump down to scoop him up into a trashcan we borrowed from the classroom. At this point, Nugget was pretty weak, so when I nudged him with the trash can, he looked up at me with the most pitiful look in his eyes and then crawled into the trashcan. I handed him back up to my classmates waiting on the balcony and E tried to pull me up from the depths of the jungle. The angle was awkward so he couldn't pull me up and instead handed me a chair from the classroom so that I could some height and he could pull me up from there. I stood on the chair and E and another classmate, K, pulled me back up to the balcony. We then had the issue of getting the chair back up onto the balcony. I laid between the railings, but my arms and legs were too short to reach the chair. E laid down and had me sit on his legs so that he was weighed down as he reached for the chair. He grabbed the chair and I, like a dork, wanted to help him, so I jumped up to get the chair from him and almost sent him flying into the jungle. Oops. My life is a sitcom. Below is the video of Nugget's rescue:

Sorry for the poor quality, it was an iPhone video taken by a classmate

Nugget in his trashcan

J rode with me to the Wildlife Hospital. We had planned on dropping Nugget off in their after-hours cages because they closed at 5 and it was 7 pm by the time we got there. Before we left, I made a joke to my classmates that we would get there and all of the cages would be full and that would be a sign that he should be my love and we could be best friends forever. Well, when we got there, all four cages were full. I called the humane society and animal services for help, but both were closed, so we called our classmates for their opinions. We decided it would be best if I brought him back at 9 am when the hospital opens. E met J and I at a local Starbucks and brought a cat carrier and a bowl for some water, so we transferred Nugget to the new carrier and settled him in. When I dropped J off at her house, she gave me a drip bottle that she uses for her rats so that I could attach it to the cage in case Nug got thirsty. K and her husband met me at my house with some baby food because K had done some research that said it was possible that Nug might take some baby food. We placed the dish in his carrier, but at this point, he was sleeping and not responding to any disturbances. I was nervous that he would be very noisy all through the night, given that raccoons are nocturnal animals, but he only chirped when I gave him an extra towel to make sure that he was warm during the night. Other than that, he was very quiet.

I checked on Nugget before I went on my run this morning, and he appeared to be very alert. He was very quiet and hadn't eaten, so I took the food out of his carrier before I left. When I came back and walked by his carrier, he began to cry and chirp, which I took as a sign that he was hungry (which I was thinking was a good thing). His crying only lasted about 15 minutes, though. I packed him up in my car at 9 and we headed to the hospital:

When I got to the hospital, it was very quiet inside. There were signs all over asking people to keep their voices down as the animals were trying to heal. I wanted a tour of the facility, but the lady told me that due to federal regulations, they were not allowed to give tours. I gave the lady the rundown of how I got Nugget, if anyone touched him, if he ate/drank, and how long I had him. I then filled out paperwork answering those same questions. When the woman reached into the cat carrier to transfer him to his new home at the hospital, Nugget began shrieking, but he wasn't wiggling or fighting her. He was only making noises. It was at this point that the woman said that Nugget is very sick and she was not sure what his outcome will be. I didn't press further, but she gave me his chart number so that I can call and check on his progress! Be sure that I will be doing that and keeping y'all updated!

It is important to remember that raccoons are wild animals and that they should never be fed in the wild.  I am against feeding any wild animal (including throwing bread to the birds) because it alters that animal's natural behaviors and will more than likely end up with the animal being destroyed. Please keep that in mind the next time you are debating whether or not to give food to a wild animal!

If you want more information about raccoons or the Florida Wildlife Hospital, check the links below:

Florida Wildlife Hospital