Volunteers help injured raccoon recover

The extraordinary effort to save an injured and orphaned raccoon named "Timmy."
July 26, 2010 9:01:19 PM PDT
A lot of homeowners think of raccoons as a pesky nuisance, but to others raccoons are Bay Area natives with as much right to live here as humans. Here is the story of an amazing raccoon rescue -- help for a little guy who lost both his mother and his ability to walk.

Like all raccoons, Timmy is a social creature, who likes to dine with a friend. Life is good for these two buddies right now. But last March, right after Timmy was born near a house in Alameda County, his future looked grim.

"Timmy's mother was killed by an exterminator, which happens all the time, it's very common," Timmy's caregiver Amy Pfaffman said.

Volunteers rescued Timmy. But after a few weeks, he suddenly could not move his back legs. Megan Isadore, who's been saving orphaned and injured raccoons for 10 years, stepped in to help.

"We keep them until they are healed or until they are old enough to be on their own, and then they are released to live their natural wild lives," she said.

Timmy needed more than just time to heal, so Megan took him to the Sams Clinic Veterinary Specialists in Marin County and Dr. Lisa Klopp examined him for free.

"You just take one look at him and he just gets into your heart," Klopp said.

The doctor ordered a CT scan to figure out exactly what was wrong and the staff donated their time. The scan showed Timmy had a fractured spine.

"Timmy's spinal cord is compressed down to about 10 percent of the normal size," Klopp said.

Timmy needed surgery and again, the staff stepped up.

"Little Tim was actually three pounds, so he's a little fellow and he was a lot smaller than most of our cats and dogs that we do here. So getting an intravenous catheter and also intubation for anesthesia were some tough challenges," anesthesiologist Alexander Hawley said.

The operation may have been tough for the people, but Timmy was ready for action almost right away. Just a few days after surgery he was already playing hard with a female raccoon named Charlie - another orphan.

The two are now living in a pen behind Pfaffman's and Jack Gescheidt's house. This is the second summer the couple has raised and rehabilitated wild raccoons.

"We have this amazing opportunity as rehabbers to see them just interacting with each other. I mean, these young animals that are so, I mean unbelievably sweet," he said.

That may not be how everyone sees them, but raccoons are very loyal and caring toward their family group. So Charlie is key to Timmy learning to live in the wild.

"Charlie is running up and down the trees and Tiny Tim trying to follow her. She is still his best physical therapist really," Isadore said.

More than a month after surgery, Timmy is making great progress. He and Charlie run all over the property. It's critical for them to get comfortable in trees, where raccoons spend a lot of time.

Timmy goes up fine, but has trouble climbing down. So Amy practices with him on a board.

Even though Amy and Jack can handle Timmy now, as he grows he'll get wilder and that's a change they encourage.

"They don't even talk very much to him. He's put with a very wild raccoon, Charlie, who won't let them even touch her," Isadore said.

The raccoons will eventually be released in a safe place, as close as possible to where they were found.

"It's really hard to let them go, but I know that's absolutely what's best for them," Pfaffman said.

Timmy's rescuers never did figure out how his back got broken. Timmy can't tell them of course, and besides that he's busy trying to hang on to his tail.

The non-profit wildlife center that facilitated Timmy's rescue is in desperate need of a new facility to care for injured and orphaned wild animals.

Information about Timmy's rescue:

Timmy was cared for by volunteers with Rancho Raccoon, which is part of Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue Center in Oakland.

The center is being evicted from its current location and is desperately in need of a new home, donations, and volunteers.

Timmy's medical care was provided by Sams Clinic Veterinary Specialists in Mill Valley, which does specialized veterinary care.

If you have problems with wildlife on your property, Yggdrasil is affiliated with Good Riddance! Wildlife Exclusions, a nuisance wildlife mediation company. They solve wildlife problems without trapping and relocating (illegal in California), or killing.

For more information, go to www.goodriddancewildlife.com or call (415) 342-7956.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney


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