Raccoon Interlude, and my dinner this evening

I usually only make a food post if I have some semblence of a recipe or at least one online I can point you to, but tonight’s post was actually meant to be about the raccoons and I just happened to take a picture of my meal before eating it, so it’s kind of a side-liner here. I’ll get it out of the way first.

The picture is terrible. I lost my gray card and I can’t get the white balance in my dining room right without it. The reason I’m posting the picture even though it’s crap and I’m not even giving you a recipe is because the Cauliflower in Herbed Vinaigrette with Capers is yet another one of many, many reasons why I love Donna Klein’s The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen. It’s just what the name suggests: steamed cauliflower tossed with capers in an herbed vinaigrette, but like all the recipes in that book, it’s totally simple and totally delicious. That cookbook is the one I turn to most often when I have super-fresh and super-delicious produce I want to showcase. I’ve paired the cauliflower here with a farro alle verdure that I got out of a package, a fancy package, and it was really good. It’s rare I’ll buy packaged side dishes, but that one looked interesting and it turns out I’d buy it again. Also, a steamed artichoke. And red wine, bien sur.

Now on to the good stuff: pictures that don’t need any magic from me to turn out well because the subject is so adorable. Baby raccoons! We got another family in at the sanctuary and they are cuuuuute! A couple of people have asked me to share more about my work with the raccoons. I don’t want to overstate what I do; I’m just a volunteer and apprentice rehabber, but I am licensed by the state of Virginia. I help a local raccoon rehabber on the weekends; she does it every day, all day, and honestly I don’t know how she does it all. The bit of help I give her 1 or 2 days a week is a drop in the bucket. At first I was a bit reluctant to go into much detail here about it because it seems like talking about myself too much. But I’ve thought about it and if I care so much about the raccoons, I owe it to them to educate people as much as I can about them. So I’ll try to talk a little bit more about them when I post pictures. Not so much that this becomes a raccoon blog, but enough to explain why I love them!

April and May is the primary baby season, so mostly what you’ll be seeing from me this time of year is pictures of pretty tiny babies. Young babies are bottle-fed, starting at 4 times a day, then down to 3, then 2, etc. Once they are down to two feedings a day, if you give them the right kind of bottle, most of them will actually bottle-feed themselves – I’ll have to get a picture of that later when we have some the right age. The babies we got in the week before last are a few weeks old. They were found in a tree on a construction site and were apparently abandoned by their mother, and one was injured in the tree. At this age, they stay in a cage about the size of one you’d have for a hamster or gerbil. They sleep for a large majority of the day, but they know when it’s feedin’ time! Let me out, I’m hungry!!!

I SAID, I’m hungry!

When the bottles of special raccoon formula have been made up and warmed in the microwave, we’ll move one family (or group of individuals we’ve made into a family) at a time from the cage (so it can be cleaned and the bedding replaced) to an empty aquarium where they wait their turn on the bottle. They typically go a bit crazy at this point, scrambling all around, hoping to be picked first for food.

They are selected one-by-one – or if you’re feeling up to the challenge, two or even three at a time! – for the bottle and are fed sitting in our laps. They have to be stimulated (i.e. made pee and poop) when they are finished feeding, and then they generally fall promptly asleep. These guys could barely keep their little eyes open following their breakfast. One was also extremely camera shy!

Oh my GOSH this family is cute!

This has been a somewhat surprisingly slow-starting season for us. A big reason for that is we’ve been passing the buck on some of our work! Because our sanctuary is located in a large wooded area, we’re able to release our animals right onto the property when they are old enough to survive on their own. Many of the animals come back year after year to visit and bear young in the many nest boxes we provide them. One such raccoon is Emmie, who returns every year to give birth on one of the porches. Soon after Emmie gave birth this spring, we received a family of two and one individual, very young babies. Because the three babies we received were just about the same age as Emmie’s babies, and because we know Emmie to be a great mother, the rehabber offered all three of the babies to her – just put them in her hand and held her hand out to Emmie – and she accepted them, and adopted them as her own! She just grabbed each of them in her mouth, gave it a few quick licks to clean it of any lingering human cooties, and shoved it under herself with her own babies, where they each latched on and began nursing. I think that is just the coolest thing! It’s so much better for a raccoon to be raised by a raccoon, and I think it’s awesome that these three abandoned babies were immediately adopted by another mother…of their own species! This is Emmie with all her babies, biological and adopted:

The moral of THAT story is it is a total myth that animals – including birds – will reject a baby that’s been touched by a human. In general, you should avoid touching a baby animal or bird, even if looks abandoned, because almost always the mother is simply out gathering food and will return for it soon. However, if you do see a baby animal or bird that is alone and in imminent danger – from other animals or whatever – its mother will NOT reject it if you touch it and move it to safety. I kinda think that myth was made up by someone that wanted to keep humans from unnecessarily touching baby animals, and I agree with that goal, but it IS a myth. (It’s actually mentioned in Julien Parme, the French version of which I am just finishing up: Julien touches a baby duck and a girl later tells him that its mother will reject it and Julien gets very upset, and even though I was annoyed with Julien for wanting to be Holden Caulfield really badly, I felt like telling him, “SHE’S [email protected]!” – although you shouldn’t have touched him!)

4 Comments »

  1. Sarah Said,

    April 26, 2012 @ 11:26 pm

    Oh my gosh!! Thank you for sharing! Those babies are adorable! And the story about Emmie is so heart-warming! It’s amazing how we can communicate with animals and have such bonds. Love it!

  2. Josiane Said,

    April 27, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

    It’s awesome that Emmie comes back every year and that she took those three extra babies! Lovely! Thank you for sharing a little more about the raccoons and the work you do with them; it’s nice to learn more about both.

  3. radioactivegan Said,

    April 29, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

    That is such a great story! I love that Emmie is so caring and happy to expand her family 🙂

  4. susan Said,

    April 29, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

    Thanks for sharing. They are really beautiful little guys.

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