This is the story of one of our animals, a raccoon named Bandit. Every one of the animals we care for has a great story but this is one we thought we would share with you to help you understand what we do as rehabbers.
The pictures and text below will chronicle the rehabilitation and subsequent release of raccoon we've affectionately named Bandit.
Meet Bandit: He was given to Friends of Texas Wildlife by a Harris County Game Warden on April 8th. He was found in someone’s yard and had spent the night outside, alone and cold. His age was estimated at about a week old. He was very tiny with his eyes still closed. When we got him, his body temperature was way below normal and he was very hungry. The first thing we did was put him in an incubator to raise his body temperature. Once that was normalized, we fed him. The picture shown to the right is one of Bandit's first feedings after being removed from the incubator. On average Bandit eats once every two to four hours. His initial feeding schedule requires nearly constant attention, as he may require formula 12 times a day.
April 18th – Bandit was doing well until this morning when blood was noticed in his urine. He was taken to Janette’s house, our group’s President, for an examination. It was suspected that he may had a urinary tract infection. He was given an injection of antibiotics and liquid antibiotics were sent home with him to be given orally for the next seven days.
April 19th – Bandit woke up this morning hungry, as usual. I fed him but it appeared he was having difficulty urinating. I was very worried about him so I took him to Pet’s Paw in Conroe where Dr. Foster examined him. He couldn’t find anything wrong so I guess I over-reacted a little. You get that way when it comes to the little ones in your care.
May 1, 2010 - Bandit had a house guest last week. His name is Binkie and his foster mama had to go out of town so Binkie moved in. The first night they slept at opposite ends of the cage but the second night they were curled up beside each other.
May 3, 2010 - Today Bandit gets two new roommates. Our organization never raises a single raccoon. We always try to find other orphaned raccoons, close in age, to put with our singles so they can grow up together and be released together. Another policy our organization has is to never split up a family. If we get siblings turned in to us, they will be raised together and will remain together until release.
May 10, 2010 - Bandit now has a brother and a sister. Lulu joined Bandit about two weeks ago and Willie joined them after being held in isolation for 2 weeks. We do this when we take in new animals to make sure they don’t have any diseases that they could pass on to the healthy animals.
Each one of them has it’s own personality. I call Bandit the “wild man”. He’s very active and hates being in his cage. It’s a real challenge to feed him, too. He rolls around in all different directions until he’s
comfortable which is usually flat on his back. He’s then ready to settle down and eat. Lulu is very vocal and very bossy. They have a hammock in their cage and she decides who gets to be on it with her. It’s apparent she’s the boss in the family. Willie is very sweet and lovable. He likes nothing more than to cuddle and rock with me after he eats. I have to wake him up to put him back in his cage which he fights.
They are eating three or four times a day now and I’ve just introduced Cheerios to them. They are eating a few of them but there’s still nothing better than the bottle! I think Lulu ate a little too much tonight because she threw up on me. They’re just like little kids.
They all have a full set of teeth. I found this out when one of them mistook my finger for the nipple on their bottle. OUCH! Bandit is really enjoying his teeth and finds it amusing to clamp down on the nipple of his bottle and not let go.
May 18, 2010 - The little raccoon family is growing and prospering. I am going to have to move them into a larger cage—this will be the third one! They grow at an amazing pace.
They experienced their first solids recently. I gave them some Cheerios and some baby cookies. It’s hysterical to watch them with something new. At first, they keep their distance and just look at it. Then they slowly creep up on it and smell it. If it smells okay, they’ll touch it. If it feels okay, then it goes in the mouth. Since they are just getting in their molars, it’s still a little difficult for them to chew but they’ve found a way to enjoy the Cheerios. They put them in their mouth and suck on them until the flavor is gone and then they spit them out! Smart little creatures.
My laundry habits have changed dramatically. After only doing laundry once a week for years, I now do it daily. I change the bedding in their cage every time I feed them and that’s about four times a day so laundry stacks up quickly. Additionally, it’s not the best smelling bedding since their entire cage is their bathroom. YUK!
Their favorite place to rest is their hammock. All three of them climb in and it looks like one big ball of fur. The hammock has also taught them how to climb and balance. It’s not an easy feat for them to get in or out. I’ve seen them hanging upside down, sideways, and backwards.
They are now interacting with each other a lot more. After they’ve had their bottle and have a full tummy, then it’s play time. They roll around in the cage, play “attack”, and bite each other. At times, it gets a little rough and I worry they will hurt each other but again, it’s how they learn. They’re also interacting with me now . They play “attack” with my fingers, play with my necklace and try to hide in my hair.
June 23, 2010 - The Raccoon babies have turned into juvenile delinquents! While watching TV the other day and looked to my left and much to my surprise, Willie was looking back at me! He has now learned to open the door on his cage. It has since been secured so there will be no more surprises!
They are now totally weaned and wolfing down food at an amazing rate. They are being fed cat food, boiled eggs, Cheerios, yogurt, chicken and animal crackers. I also spoil them with cheese crackers with peanut butter on rare occaisions . They love them. They definitely have a sweet tooth as the animal crackers are their favorite.
They received their second immunization just the other day. They have three to go before they’ll be totally protected against canine and feline diseases. We do this so that once released they’ll have the best possible chance of survival.
They don’t sleep nearly as much anymore and spend a lot of time playing. Their wrestling can get a little loud at times. I can hear them crashing against the sides of the cage and “yelling” at each other when a bite is a little too hard. I let them out to play in the laundry room for about an hour a day. It’s so fun to watch them. They are just like kittens—they attach each other, play hide and seek and wrestle. I also put a big bowl of water on the floor so they can “swim.” By the time they’re done, the bowl is totally empty and there’s water everywhere!
August 8, 2010 - Today was moving day and it was none too soon. Bandit and family have been spending their days in an outside cage and then transferred to an inside cage in my laundry room at night. I just didn’t feel they were ready to face the long, lonely nights alone. Actually, the real reason is that I still want to baby them. Anyway, it became apparent they were ready when I walked into the laundry room one morning and the door of the cage was open and hanging by a thread. They had unscrewed the bolts and taken the door off! They were running around the laundry room having a great old time. They must have worked up an appetite after all their partying because they had torn open a bag of dog food I had on the floor which I had not yet transferred to the food bin.
It’s standard procedure for me to let them play in the laundry room for an hour or so each night. I stay in there with them for two reasons; one, because they are hilarious to watch and two, because they get into EVERYTHING! They think it’s great fun to take a break every ten minutes or so and grab some food from the food bin.
Bandit is still the biggest of the three and he’s got the belly to show for it. They’re eating all kinds of things now like dog food, apples, bananas, grapes and eggs. “Cookie time” is still their favorite time of the day, however. Each night around 10:00 I take a bowl full of animal crackers to them and announce, “It’s cookie time” and they are immediately at full attention and waiting for their snack before bed.
Lulu is my water baby. It’s so funny to watch her jump in and out of their pool. She immerses herself in the water until the only thing left out is her head. She moves her front and back legs like she’s actually swimming. Guess she doesn’t know it’s only about six inches deep. Thanks to her exposure to, and fondness for water, she'll be right at home in a lake, stream or pond in the wild.
The cage they are now in will be the last cage before release. Bandit was so excited he even tried to help during some of the construction. I'm not sure he was much help, but he certain
ly got his paws in. They have plenty of room to exercise and get accustomed to spending days and nights outside. I'm happy to say that Bandit and his friends are now entering the final rehabilitation phase prior to their release. My job as their rehabilitator is almost over.
After the cage was moved to my new residence, Bandit honored his namesake by escaping with his adopted brother and sister into the nearby woods. Since all three were ready for release I made a conscious decision not to return them to their cage. I do keep some dog food out to ease their transition to the wild. On occasion they've all come back to visit, looking for food, but its less and less over time. I'm happy to say; all three of them will now be fine on their own.