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~ Poko and Mandi ~

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Two juvenile raccoons someone had as pets.
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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 knew 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

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