baby raccoon

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Wanna bottle-feed a baby raccoon — legally? Here’s your chance.

As some of my faithful readers know, I have recently gotten involved with Charlotte Players, the local community theater. To say that’s a little outside my hula hoop is an understatement. I’m currently doing costuming for an upcoming play (a political farce — but that’s rather redundant, isn’t it?) and was directed to produce “cocktail attire” for some cast members.

When I asked the director to be more specific, she said she wanted suits and ties for the men and cocktail dresses for the ladies. Is that a long gown? No, a dress — you know, like one would wear for cocktails.

Does she know who she’s talking to? I have three types of shoes: Everyday flip flops, work flip flops, and fancy flip flops. If I’m trying to impress someone, I might throw a pair of cut-offs over my bathing suit to toast the sunset with a cold brew. That’s my idea of cocktail attire, but somehow, I don’t think that’s what my director has in mind.

And not to be pedantic, but if you have to use the term you are defining in the definition, maybe you don’t know what it means either.

I suppose some things are just second nature to some folks. At Peace River Wildlife Center, we may not know much about designer couture, but we have a certain skill set that probably isn’t obvious to some other people.

Not only do our rehabbers and assistants take care of the injured and orphaned wildlife as it comes in, most of us spend a lot of our “free” time raising orphaned (and kidnapped) baby mammals. While the baby birds that primarily come in during the spring and summer seasons need to be fed up as often as every 15 minutes, at least they eat only from dawn to dusk. Baby mammals can be born all year in the temperate south and need to be fed every couple hours, depending on their age and species — and most need to be fed around the clock when very young.

So, we need to provide home care for these youngsters. Our employees don’t mind taking the orphans home, but it’s often difficult to provide appropriate care when they are at work, since the pace can be quite frantic at times.

PRWC is currently recruiting home care volunteers. Right now, we have a lot of baby squirrels, raccoons and bunnies. Training is provided for any intrepid souls who want to give it a shot. Not literally. We give the actual shots to the species that get vaccines before release. You just provide the feeding, cleaning, and loving care.


Many of our volunteers only do one species, so if you have an aversion to a particular type of animal, that doesn’t need to be a deterrent. Every animal has its own particular challenges: Raccoons are very easily imprinted, bunnies are difficult to wean, squirrels aspirate if you’re not careful. Have I talked you out of it yet? We will discuss all of these peccadilloes during training and easy ways to avoid pitfalls if you follow our directions.

If you’re still thinking about it, let me give you a couple more warnings: Prepare yourself for the inevitable death of some of the babies. Quite often we have admitted these tykes because they were injured or mom rejected them, possibly knowing there was some congenital problem. We always try our best — but even when we do everything right, they don’t all survive.

In the best-case scenario, you succeed in raising happy, healthy, wild baby mammals. Then you have to give them back to us to get them ready to go out into that wild cruel world and be, well, wild animals. You can’t turn them into cuddle bunnies (or snuggle squirrels or whatever.)

All due respect to The Peace Corps, but wildlife rehab is the toughest volunteer job you’ll ever love. And those of you who were born after 1962 may feel free to assume I came up with that inventive slogan all by myself.

Anyone with the time and heart to help us with this monumental task can contact Tammy at PRWC’s office by calling 941-637-3830. She can answer your questions or get you in touch with the people who can. Training is ongoing and flexible to fit into your schedule.

The best part is the dress code. No cocktail attire required; you can wear your jammies to feed the babies if you want. However, I wouldn’t recommend the bunny slippers if you’re raising cottontails for us.

Peace River Wildlife Center is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to the care, preservation and protection of Charlotte County’s native wildlife since 1978. Injured, abandoned or orphaned native wild animals are accepted at the center’s care facility (223 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Punta Gorda) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Tours of their home for permanent resident animals are available. PRWC receives no government funding and relies entirely on private donations. For more info, visit PRWildlife.org, email PeaceRiverWildlife@yahoo.com or call 941-637-3830.

Peace River Wildlife Center is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to the care, preservation and protection of Charlotte County’s native wildlife since 1978. Injured, abandoned or orphaned native wild animals are accepted at the center’s care facility (223 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Punta Gorda) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Tours of their home for permanent resident animals are available. PRWC receives no government funding and relies entirely on private donations. For more info, visit PRWildlife.org, email PeaceRiverWildlife@yahoo.com or call 941-637-3830.

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