Watching a Raccoon Release

By Ellie Peevler, Spring 2004

coonincrate

One of Greenwood’s many raccoon patients

Spring 2004-Now in my 13th season of volunteering at Greenwood, I’ve been involved in a number of releases but had never seen any coons released, and when I walked into the Center the morning of March 4, they were just getting ready to do this.

This is a somewhat quiet time right now, so I asked the Animal Care Manager if I could go along since it would be a first for me, and of course she said I could.

We had 6 coon kids that had wintered over and needed to go. First, they had to be caught within the large pen they had lived in all these months, and put into large animal carriers. That was a circus, with the Animal Care Manager and Raccoon Volunteer chasing them with huge nets. (They probably didn’t think it was a circus, but I did!) The coons were snarling and growling and boy, could they move quickly. It is definitely not a job for someone who is not experienced and agile, never mind that they had to wear thick elbow length leather gloves.

We left in a caravan of 3 cars and brought the raccoons to a large farm about 15 miles or so east of Longmont. It is a great place, with the St. Vrain River nearby, lots of large cottonwood trees, some shrubs, and a small lake filled with geese. The property has about 160 or so acres far from traffic.

cooningrass

This raccoon tests out the taste of freedom

The little guys didn’t know what to do when we opened the animal carrier doors. Just imagine the trauma for them. First, they were chased by people with big nets, then loaded into small cages and transported via noisy vehicles. Now they were to be set free in an area unfamiliar to them. They simply wouldn’t come out of the carriers

We waited ever so long, and finally, they had to be shaken out of the transport cages. Some kept clinging to the sides, so a door had to be removed. Eventually they were out, exploring their freedom and scared at the same time.

One found a nice hole in a tree and crawled in; a couple scratched on another tree and eventually climbed up, then looked down to peer at us.

This was, for me and for many of us, the ultimate reward. The critters we had fed, treated, cared for, and learned to love, had graduated. Long may they live their wild lives.

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