Brother and sister raccoons, Poko
and Mandi were about 8 months old when I got them, and
completely tame. They had never walked free in the grass
or climbed a tree. They had been kept indoors as housepets.
They were happy, healthy, and well-adjusted pets but their
keeper realized her mistake and that she could not keep them
in her house much longer. For the first few days, the raccoons
stayed indoors while they got used to me. They were extremely
friendly, even to strangers, a definite no-no that would be
dangerous to a raccoon in the wild.
Then the rehab process began.
On their first time outside, they stayed right underfoot and
I do mean right underfoot! Poko was nervous and kept trying
to get back in the house. They followed me over to the tree
line and I placed Mandi on a small tree. Poko clinged
to me and would have no part of it. Within minutes, Mandi was having
a wonderful time, climbing down the tree, over to me and back
up the tree. Faster and faster. Poko thought his
sister was crazy running up and down every tree around us, and I was
discouraged to say the least. Sighing, I sat down with my glass
of ice water. In two seconds flat, Poko was up on my lap, pulling
my drink from my hands and drinking it! He was a
little disappointed when it turned out to be just water (apparently he
had thought it was going to be soda!) but it did have ice cubes
in it - and raccoons love toplay with ice cubes! This was going
to be even harder than I
thought - a raccoon that can't
or won't climb a tree is a
raccoon that can't be released
back into the wild.
For the next ten days, Poko was
content to just play in the tub
of water, right next to me or dig
in the ground cover for stuff.
Mandi would run to him, bump him,
and they would chase each
other. Sometimes a play fight
or water fight would ensue.
Then Mandi would take off for the
trees again, trying to coax
her brother to follow her up.
Over and over again, but each
time Poko refused to follow her.
And each time I tried to
place him on the tree, he would
continue to cling to me
It took 10 days before I could get
Poko to finally attempt to
climb a tree and then there was
no stopping him! Mandi just
looked at him like "see what you've
been missing - and you
thought I was crazy!"
As they discovered all the joys in trees,
they spent more time in the trees
instead of just running up and
down them. It was autumn
and the trees were laden with nuts,
berries and bugs. A great
place to snack, terrific napping
spots and a wonderful world to
explore and play in.
As the days went by, Poko and Mandi
were allowed out in the
woods on their own for the better
part of each day. They started
to become wary of anyone other
than me and, if they were out
foraging and company showed up,
they would immediately run
up a tree. In the evening,
I would coax them home and put them
in their enclosure. Poko
in particular began to resent this and
became harder and harder to retrieve.
He would come home
when he was good and ready, so
there! I was still able
to retrieve Mandi relatively easy
and would use her to lure
Poko home. Finally, one evening
after Mandi was home, Poko
showed up but refused to come into
the enclosure despite all my
bribery and coaxing. He would
run up a tree if I approached him.
So Poko was going to spend his
first night out in the woods.
The problem was that Mandi soon
became distressed that her
littermate was not with her and
began pacing and chattering.
And so I let her out to join her
brother. That was the last time
either of them were confined until
their final release.
They stayed out in the woods continuously,
not touching the kibble
I left out for them, sustaining
themselves on natures offerings.
I would walk through the woods
each day looking for them but
sometimes days would go by without
seeing the raccoons. Then
a period of two weeks passed and
I was afraid they may have turned
nocturnal when I sighted
them deep in the woods. They
looked magnificent! Nature
definitely agreed with them! It had
been several weeks since they had
had their favorite treat and I
was able to use it to get them
to approach me. They were both
very wary of me and Poko was letting
me know in no uncertain
terms that he was not someone's
pet raccoon anymore.
I had to catch Poko first or he
would take off as soon as I
caught Mandi. So I gave Mandi
her treat and let her be. This
enticed Poki to accept his treat
and I was able to then grab him
by the scuff, then Mandi and put
them both in the pet carrier.
I put treats in the carrier and,
because I had used the carrier as
their den in the enclosure, they
were used to it and not stressed.
Just two months after their rehab
began, Poko and Mandi were
transported to and given their
permanent freedom in a
non-hunting release area, where
they will live wild and free.
Poko and Mandi's story is a little different from my other raccoon rehabs because of their age. It is relatively easy to rehab baby orphaned raccoons back to the wild since their instincts have not been dulled by too many human interactions. I was pleasantly surprised by the rapid changes in Poko and Mandi, particularly in view of the rather shaky start. They were 10 months old at their final release, the oldest I have ever released hand-raised raccoons to date. If they had been a few months older, I would be very doubtful the results would have been as spectacular. I believe
it is far easier for juvenile raccoons to adapt to the environment and mix with a raccoon population than it is for yearlings, particularly since the younger they are the less competitive they would be to any older raccoons in the areas