By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital
A young raccoon was among the 53 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a painted bunting, a double-crested cormorant, an osprey, an American bittern, two gopher tortoises, and a marsh rabbit.
A resident of Estero rescued the raccoon after finding the youngster with her right hind leg caught in a chain-link fence. On a previous occasion, a black bear destroyed the fence as it went through the yard from the adjacent preserve leaving the fence bent and broken. The raccoon became stuck in the part of the fence that was bent. The physical exam performed upon admission to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital showed the raccoon was exhibiting signs of stress and had an increased respiratory effort. The raccoon was in decent body condition aside from a scrape on her forehead and dermatitis on all four of her paws.
Hospital staff administered a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and arnica tincture to address pain. The raccoon was placed in a recovery space in the mammal room that included a bowl of water, a small amount of food, a box to hide in and a large teddy bear. When staff checked on the raccoon after allowing her time to rest, they found the raccoon curled up underneath the teddy bear resting calmly.
The following morning, the raccoon was started on a course of an antibiotic; Chinese herbs were also put on board to address the dermatitis. The raccoon was offered a dilute milk replacement formula from a bottle but was frightened and unaccustomed to being handled so she drank very little. Staff continued to bottle feed the raccoon throughout the day and evening. By the late-night feeding, the raccoon figured out the new feeding regimen and finished her entire bottle. Once the raccoon was well hydrated, she also required treatment for mites and fleas.
The raccoon received multiple bottle feedings for several days although she was at the age when we would typically start weaning an orphan from bottle feeding and begin offering a solid diet. When we offered the young raccoon a solid diet, she did eat some on her own and began drinking raccoon formula from a bowl; this has allowed staff to reduce the number of daily bottle feedings. Less handling has minimized stress on the raccoon.
The woman who rescued the orphaned raccoon did everything correctly. She sought help from professionals when she saw the raccoon was in distress. Raccoons are a high-risk rabies vector species; using extreme caution when extracting the youngster from the fence was an absolute must. Hospital staff advised the woman on proper handling techniques to ensure she was safe while rescuing the raccoon thereby removing any possible risk of exposure.
Four Virginia opossums, five grey squirrels, four eastern cottontails, four ovenbirds, a northern parula, a royal tern, a pileated woodpecker, five mourning doves, two Swainson’s thrushes, a white-eyed vireo and a barred owl were released this past week.
Opportunities to Help
There are many ways to remain engaged and support the Conservancy. The holidays are right around the corner. If you are shopping online, use the AmazonSmile website operated by Amazon.com. AmazonSmile has the same shopping features, products and prices as Amazon.com. When you choose the Conservancy of Southwest Florida as your charitable organization, 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products is donated to the Conservancy. Every donation supports the Conservancy’s work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future. To learn more about the mission of the Conservancy visit our website at www.conservancy.org.