Wildlife Saved During Our 2020 Season!

As we say goodbye to the year 2020, we have a lot upon which to reflect. It’s a year none of us will soon forget. When Covid-19 hit early in the year, it changed everything as we knew it.

But doing what we do at Procyon, even though it was a tough year, was still a rewarding one, since we were able, as always, to save those precious orphans and watch them grow and then see them run free to be wild and do what they were meant to do. Job well done. Big sigh of relief. We did it; in spite of the loss of very important fundraisers, we managed to keep the Centre running.

We always do everything we can, but not all animals in our care survive if their injuries and sicknesses were too severe. It is nice to know that they were warm, free of pain and comfortable so they can go peacefully.

Then there are the ones that beat all odds and get better. Some just surprise you and some break your heart. But when all is said and done, the releases far outweigh the losses since every life matters. Big or small.

The numbers are still in the works for admissions for the year 2020, but for the animals overwintering, we have a few. 21 raccoons, 25 squirrels, 5 opossums and 1 porcupine who is always giving us heck.

We thank each and every one of you who cared about our wildlife enough to call us, for the donations of everything, and for your support.

We have some exciting changes which Procyon is undergoing this winter. The year 2021 should prove to be a much better year for us with lots of surprises in store for all.

Happy New Year to everyone. Be safe and stay healthy. Should you see an animal in need, please call us, 905-729-0033. We can all do this together. “HELP is in YOUR Hands.”

Jen Howard

Procyon volunteer/photographer

View this masonry grid of the animals we have cared for and rehabilitated during the 2020 season. Thank you to wildlife photographer and Procyon Wildlife volunteer for these wonderful pictures!

 

Raccoon Growth and Enrichment

by Elizabeth Trickey

Raccoons are my spirit animal.  When they are orphaned as newborns, usually due to human interference, they don’t look much like raccoons.  Eyes are shut, snouts are round, and they have very little fur that distinguishes them as raccoons (no masks and striped tails).  About the only thing they can do is nurse from a bottle if it is held right up to their mouths.  Some babies can’t even do that.

In the wild, they spend their first year being cared for by their mothers.  Without the nurturing and guidance given by a mother, they would perish.  That’s where concerned community members come in – they bring these orphans to Procyon Rehabilitation to be cared for.

Some volunteers are qualified to foster these babies.  Because I enjoy working with the little critters so much, I fostered 2 of them.  Sadly, one died.  Then I was given 2 others.  Oh my!  What a load of time-consuming work that was since they were on different feeding schedules!  There were feedings all throughout the day, starting at 7am right up until midnight!  Each feeding and cleaning took me about 2 hours.  After 3 weeks, I managed to get them stabilized and growing well, so returned them to Procyon for the volunteers there to continue their care.

My infant raccoons, Maisy, Trefor and Tabitha, grew into healthy youngsters, and were ready for stage 2 at Procyon.  They were relocated to the Toddler room where they were given a larger cage with tree trunks, branches and toys. It is now time for them to start weaning from formula to solid food, and less interaction from people. It is important that they have a healthy apprehension around humans, so at this stage, we make sure we aren’t friendly with these critters.  That’s probably the hardest part of our job.

At about 4 months of age, the toddler raccoons are ready for Stage 3.  They are given the first doses of vaccinations that will help them to remain healthy once released and moved outside to the large enclosures.  It is here where they have more of an opportunity to climb and rough-house with their mates.  This is a very important part of their rehabilitation.

It is at this point where we have to make sure that the raccoons will be ready for release, back into the wild.  We try to make their time in the outdoor enclosures as close to what they will experience after release.  (No, we don’t give them garbage bins to learn to break into, though that is a good idea!)  They are given tree trunks to climb, branches to chew or hide behind, straw on the ground, and a variety of food that is scattered throughout the enclosures to help the raccoons learn to forage for their food.

We also provide enrichment for the raccoons.  What is that, you ask?  It’s whatever activities would be safe for the raccoons that help to pique their curiosity and get them to use their paws to fend for themselves.  They are very good at manipulating their paws, even though they do not have opposable thumbs.  We put “toys” in their enclosures that require them to open the items by flipping, twisting, shaking, or unzipping in order to get a treat.  Sometimes, the toys are purely for entertainment, not much different than what you might put in a playpen to amuse a human baby.

In the height of summer when it is really hot, we put pools in the enclosures.  The raccoons love to play with the stream of water as the pools are being filled.  Then we put small fish and berries into the pools so the raccoons can learn to catch food from streams or lakes when they are in the wild.  Raccoons do love to dunk things in water.  They aren’t washing their food.  It is thought that their paws get more sensitive when wet and it helps them to distinguish what they are touching.

When our raccoons are at least 5 months old, they are ready to be considered for release.  We take them back to where they were originally found.  Adult raccoons that were brought to us due to injury, already have dens in their home areas.  They are also aware of where to find both the food and water sources needed for survival.  So we release them within a kilometre of where they had been picked up.  Raccoons that were brought to Procyon as infants, can be released up to 15 kilometres from where they were found.   This is because they don’t already have their own dens.

It is with mixed emotions that we release our furry masked bandits.  We have completed our mandate to rehabilitate and release, the raccoons are in the wild where they should be, but we will miss them.  They all have very set personalities, just like people.  Some are very active and inquisitive, some are laid back couch potatoes, and they are all very interesting to get to know.

I would love to know how Maisy, Trefor and Tabitha are getting along in the wild.  Sure hope they successfully found homes and friends for themselves.