San Rafael homeowners found this young female raccoon, wet, cold and shivering, in their compost bin after a rainy and stormy night. She must have scented something edible in the bin, and then found herself unable to climb back out!
The homeowners immediately called WildCare's Hotline at 415-456-7283, and our Hotline operator Barbara recognized that this young animal needed a warm bath and some care. People often make the decision to just tip the bin over to release a trapped animal (we frequently receive calls about young raccoons trapped in compost bins this time of year!) but any animal that is cold and wet should come to WildCare for a medical evaluation and a bath.
To get her to WildCare, this raccoon's rescuers were willing to load the compost bin containing the raccoon into their pickup truck and drive her over, but Barbara connected them with the Marin Humane officer on duty, who brought the foul-smelling young animal to WildCare.
Photo by Lauren Shaw
Upon admission to the Wildlife Hospital, our team determined the little raccoon to be filthy, revoltingly smelly, and slightly hypothermic, but otherwise uninjured.
We sedated her, and then gave her a full exam, including testing for canine distemper virus. Our team found her to be a healthy first-year baby with beautiful teeth and bright eyes, and fortunately the distemper test was negative. We knew this raccoon's mother was probably looking for her, so we moved quickly to get her cleaned up and hopefully ready for release.
The first step was a hot bath. In the video below, you can see Medical Staff bathing her in the sink in our Clinic. The water streaming off of her fur is so dirty! The sedation we gave her reduces her stress and helps her relax. It also causes her little pink tongue to protrude slightly. This is normal for sedated mammals.
After her bath, we placed her on dry towels and helped dry her fur with a warm blow-dryer. Recovering from the sedation took a while, and the young raccoon was clearly exhausted after her ordeal, so we set her up in a heated enclosure, gave her a good meal, and allowed her to recover overnight.
The next morning, she had recovered beautifully! One of our Medical Staff placed her in a carrier and drove to release her back into her home territory where she will no doubt catch up with her mother and siblings on their nightly rounds. As she's newly fluffy and smelling slightly of shampoo, it may take a moment or two for her raccoon family to recognize her, but we're happy she's back where she's meant to be. Hopefully she'll be wary next time she smells something tasty in a compost bin!
If you find an animal trapped in your compost or garbage bin, please call WildCare at 415-456-7283 for advice. You may be able to release an adult animal with dry fur simply by tipping the compost bin over and allowing the animal to run free, but trapped animals can easily injure themselves trying to escape, any animal that is cold and wet likely needs supportive care, and young animals may not have the resources to recover from a long, cold night in a bin. Having the team at WildCare determine if the animal needs care is the best thing for the trapped animal, and we can help you arrange to get her to the Wildlife Hospital.
Even better for wildlife, use a bungee cord or heavy weight to keep the lids of your compost and garbage bins tightly sealed to prevent intrusion by visiting wildlife neighbors! The only way to truly prevent conflicts with wildlife is to eliminate what is attracting animals to your property, and removing the attractant of tasty compost, especially during the holidays when treats are everywhere, will help encourage animals to move along.