CROW Case of the Week: Northern Raccoon (#18-4249)

The northern raccoon is an intelligent and curious critter. The dexterity of its fingerlike five toes on its front paws is second best among animals to a monkey. The raccoon is known to have the ability to grasp and manipulate food that it finds in the wild. It can also make its way through an unlocked door by using its grip to turn doorknobs and, once inside a home, to open jars if it wishes. 

Raccoons are known for their “mask” around their eyes. This black fur feature has been said to help reduce glare and enhance the nocturnal animal’s excellent night vision. Interestingly, raccoons can run at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. The male raccoon can also be referred to as a boar, while the female counterpart is named a sow. Juveniles are called kits. It is said that raccoons have adapted so well to urban life that they are now more common in cities than in the country.

At CROW, a sub-adult, male northern raccoon was admitted from North Fort Myers after it had gotten itself into quite the predicament. The young raccoon stuck its head in a soup can and could not yank it back out.

“The can covered the raccoon’s entire face and was stuck around the base of the widest point of the skull. Only the tips of its ears were sticking out,” said Dr. Robin Bast, CROW staff veterinarian. “The raccoon was quiet in the cage prior to being examined, likely from exhaustion due to previous attempts to free itself. However, it quickly became stressed when handled since it was unable to see its surroundings and was unable to defend itself.” 

The CROW veterinary team, concerned with the raccoon’s ability to breathe, immediately used a can opener to remove the bottom of the can. The raccoon was given sedation medication so the team could safely cut the can away, however, as soon as the medication began to take effect, the raccoon relaxed and the can was easily slipped from his head. 

“For the raccoon’s safety as well as the staff’s, we quickly sedated the raccoon with injectable medications,” said Dr. Bast. “Thankfully, there were no complications. Quick thinking by wildlife rehabilitator Morgan Hester led us to grab a can opener to safely cut an opening so the raccoon could breathe, without accidentally cutting its face in the process.” 

The veterinary staff performed an exam and found the patient to be in great health. He reportedly did not sustain any cuts or injuries from the can. “Luckily, this raccoon had no lacerations or bruising related to the can. It was in good body condition and was otherwise apparently healthy,” said Dr. Bast.

The raccoon was housed at the clinic overnight until he fully recovered from the medication. The next morning, he was returned to the same area he was rescued in North Fort Myers. 

Curious critters can get themselves into different predicaments. Fortunately, CROW officials have seen it all. “Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for wildlife to get tangled up in trash items such as plastics, cans, etc. – particularly for raccoons, which are good at scavenging from dumpsters in urban areas,” said Dr. Bast. “We had an anhinga admitted to the hospital last week that was starving because it had a dryer sheet wrapped around its beak. In years past, I’ve also removed a Skippy peanut butter jar from a raccoon and a Gatorade bottle from a skunk.” 


CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.

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