By Charlie Powell, College of Veterinary Medicine
PULLMAN, Wash. – Six orphaned newborn raccoons, called kits, are being bottle-fed at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Feedings are every three hours. The kits are about four inches long.
Raccoons rehabilitate well and can be returned to the wild. The kits will eventually be released away from people, after a stint as teenagers at a wildlife rehabilitation center.
The first five male kits came to WSU when a regional power company’s crew investigated a power outage in north Idaho, near Coeur d’Alene. Workers found the mother raccoon electrocuted along with one of the littermates. The crew contacted WSU immediately about the orphans.
The sixth female came from the Kennewick, Wash., area after it was likely dragged from a nest by a predator and left crying in a homeowner’s yard. Otherwise it was uninjured. It is about a week older than the males.
“Wildlife often have deadly contact with electrical power equipment,” explained Nickol Finch, a WSU veterinarian and head of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s Exotics and Wildlife Section. “Power companies go to great lengths to protect wildlife from their equipment. But sometimes animals will gnaw through insulation or climb poles and stretch to touch equipment that is powered despite the best prevention efforts.”
Nationwide, wildlife cause 11 percent of power outages, according to the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. Squirrels are the most common cause of wildlife power outages.
“People can do their part by avoiding feeding or harboring wildlife around electrical utilities,” said Finch. “They should never attach bird feeders to utility poles, for example, and if they observe wildlife beginning to use power equipment, they should call the service provider as soon as possible.
“As for the little female, it’s important to realize predation of young animals occurs all the time; we just rarely see it,” Finch said. “While some may feel that it is cruel, it is also how the young of animals like coyotes and hawks eat and survive.”
Find video and photos by Henry Moore Jr., WSU biomedical communications unit, at http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/news/stories/baby-raccoons.
Charlie Powell, WSU College of Veterinary Medicine public information officer, cell/text 509-595-2017, firstname.lastname@example.org