January 2006-This is the time of year when many people turn their attention to chimneys. The cold weather finds many of us seeking warmth from these vestibules, and young children begin to anticipate the miraculous arrival of old Santa Claus through these unlikely entryways.
Here at Greenwood, though, we often have chimneys on our minds during the warmer months, as many a tiny miracle are born in, or transplanted to, these dark dens. One such example is “Claus-Von-Soots,” or simply “Soots,” a baby raccoon so named for being covered in the persistent, black substance after coming down a chimney in September 2005.
Soots was too early to encounter Santa, but he was a very late arrival for a baby raccoon. Little Soots was only about five or six weeks old, and he had no siblings, but luckily some well-intentioned humans found him and brought him to Greenwood. Soots was immediately placed in a Greenwood foster home where he could receive around the clock care.
Soots graduated from foster care in late October 2005 and moved into one of Greenwood’s new, spacious outdoor cages. He also joined a family of three other young raccoons about the same size.
From a dark beginning, Soots has transformed into a bright-eyed, well socialized, and still very wild adolescent. Now he awaits a new beginning, back into nature.
Soots and his companions were too little to be released into natural habitat with most of Greenwood’s other baby raccoons this year; the cold weather and lack of readily available food make a typical release unlikely to be successful. On the other hand, if the raccoons remain in captivity for too long, they will have a difficult time adjusting to the wild and will risk breeding. What to do?
Greenwood will be making special accommodations for Soots and family this holiday season by locating a release site where both shelter and food will be available for as long as Soots needs it. Perhaps an empty shed or abandoned barn will do the trick, along with human landlords who are willing to provide food until the little family is self-sufficient and no longer returns to the shelter. Oh, and Santa, don’t forget: lots and lots of space…
People can prevent raccoons from being born in or moved to undesirable places such as chimneys by equipping them with appropriate exclusionary elements, like a chimney cap.