The month of May always brings about the excitement of new life. Flowers are beginning to bloom, the trees are starting to show their new leaves and we celebrate the ones who give life, our mothers.
At the Wildlife Clinic this month also brings babies...lots and lots of babies! Opossums, rabbits, squirrels, turtles, woodchucks, a variety of songbirds, and raccoon babies came to us for assistance over the last few weeks.
I think mothers of any species have a lot in common. I don't know about you, but if someone even hinted at harming my kids, my back straightened, by eyes took on a piercing look that bore right through the potential threat and if needed, I was ready to jump in harms way to protect my children. Our animal mom's aren't that different, protecting their little ones is priority one, even if they put themselves at risk. We don't always know why the babies who arrive on our doorstep were alone when they were found, but on occasion we do. Last year I brought in a litter of baby bunnies to the Wildlife Clinic. Their nest had been destroyed by our inquisitive Siberian Husky and the mother was unable to return.
There are also times the animal mom's actions are misunderstood, with tragic results. A raccoon mother cornered with her babies behind her and trying to keep a predator away can be a very frightening sight; her protective instincts can be easily misunderstood as an act of overt aggression toward us. Knowing how to avoid problems with wildlife is the first step in taking care of them. In the case of raccoons, there is no question they can cause us harm; they are equipped with sharp teeth and claws; they also carry diseases. It is for this reason that we encourage people to give mother raccoons plenty of space and leave them alone. Sadly this is not always the outcome.
(An important thing to remember is that raccoons - like woodchucks, skunks, bats, and foxes - are rabies vector species. If you touch them and are not wearing gloves, even if it is to rescue a baby, it will have to be euthanized.)
Orphaned North American raccoon (Procyon lotor.) Photo credit: Traer Scott.
When the worst happens and the mother is killed, it is up to us to take care of the babies. Fortunately caring individuals are willing to help these little creatures, bringing them to WRARI so we can provide the nurturing they need to grow and thrive on their own.
Caring for a newborn is tedious and time consuming. If you thought midnight feedings for an infant were difficult, imagine not one but a dozen hungry raccoons climbing over each other in their crate to be the first to the syringe filled with formula. Feedings need to occur as often as every three to four hours, around the clock!
Wildlife Clinic director Arianna Mourdijan giving a bottle feeding to one of the orphaned raccoons currently in our care. Photo credit: Lucy Spelman
This year when we take time to appreciate our mothers, both those with us and those who have passed, let's also remember our wildlife rehab staff, the surrogate mom's caring for those adorable bundles of fur or shells or feathers.