Eric, one of the staff people at the TWC, does a great job and is super creative in her enclosure, enrichment, and care. He gave me a tour of the garden when I arrived for my shift this week. The garden is awesome – and it came about organically, so to speak.
Hashbrown is fed squash as part of her diet, among other fruits and vegetables. She has her own large room at the TWC, and it has tunnels under a thick layer of mulch and greenery. There are toys and a kennel for her above the mulch ground.
Eric has been cleaning and improving her room for months. He dumps her dirty mulch at a certain spot in the grounds — and it started sprouting!
Apparently from Hashbrown was passing the seeds in her seed-filled poop. The mulch was being dumped into a site with plenty of fertilizer, sunshine, rain, and wind protection. It started routing and growing! Recently Eric asked Lauren, another staff person, to make a sign, and together they created this adorable garden marker.
Well, it stung. And it felt like a right of passage.
Yesterday afternoon I was sprayed right in the eyes by a baby skunk.
And it wasn’t as bad as you’d think. From the way people talk about it, it seems like you can never wash the smell off and you’ll go around smelling like skunk for days or weeks.
It really stung, like any foreign substance in the eyes, and I couldn’t see for a minute or two. I wiped my eyes with a clean towel right away and felt fine within a couple of minutes. A bit like having had chlorine in the eyes from swimming. I used a proper (sanitized) eye wash in the bathroom, and then washed my face with warm water and soap.
Bathing in tomato juice is a myth (though bathing in it or anything else might reduce the smell a bit). More often it is recommended to wash with a mixture of peroxide, baking soda, and liquid soap. For me in this case, liquid soap was sufficient. It washed off the spray and the smell.
Skunks can be incredibly accurate when shooting their spray. It streams out of two glands under the tail, on each side of the anus. They can spray fairly accurately by the time they are about 3 months old. The spray is an oily substance that contains sulphur compounds, which give it both sting and smell.
As I have written about skunks before here, skunks would really rather not spray if they can help it. These adorable little ones were doing a great job stomping to scare me away, and one or two would give off just little squirts of spray. They are just learning!
I almost cried! At the wildlife centre, as usual the last thing I did in the day was feed, weigh and clean the bats. I love caring for the little cuties and have come to know each one and their own personality and sweet quirks.
I look forward to seeing them each week. I pick up each enclosure from its place on the shelf in the humidity tent (big brown bats, who are very little – their name is misleading – are housed in the humidity tent) or from the table top (silver haired bats), and move it to my workspace on a counter top in the Songbird Room.
I have a variety of worms, large tweezers, my protective gloves, calcium water, bat vitamins, and clean fresh tea towels, a sensitive weigh scale set up there, and a garbage can nearby.
Once I’ve moved the enclosure to my workspace, I check the chart to see who it is, and what they need today in terms of food, cleaning, weighing, and any special care. Like, for a while, we were putting emu oil on Ursula’s swollen and sore wrists, which helped a lot.
So, starting logically, from left to right, I did the first silver haired bat on the table. It was Ursula, who didn’t need much more than a spot cleaning and replenishing her food and water.
The next bat enclosure I moved to my workspace. Looked at the chart to see who it is and what they need today. And what a surprise!
IT WAS LEONTES!!! Little love! I was just about in tears. I am just about in tears again now, while typing this. It was such a surprise and so wonderful to see him again!
He looks good – his tiny body is about the length of my thumb, and his silvery coat is beautiful. He learned to eat on his own while he was in foster care (I mentioned this in a previous post), so I only needed to do a spot cleaning and replenish his food, but oh my goodness I was so happy to see him and do that!
Leontes came into care at the wildlife centre on November 4, 2019. I have been taking care of him every week since November 17, which was a month or so after I was properly and thoroughly rabies vaccinated and had provided the staff with my titer (proof for the files).
I was very worried about him in January when he started to not eat or groom well. Around that time, I learned a special way of feeding him that worked well – Leontes laying on his piece of bark, and a tea towel over him like a little mini cave. I could then give him water from a tiny syringe and then he would eat.
I also learned to feed him a special bat food from a syringe. It is a mixture of mealworms, oils, and vitamins blended into a smoothie or baby food consistency. He ate that really well. Seemed to like it. Not like Phoenix worms! He is very clear that he does NOT like phoenix worms! Mealworms he loves. Waxworms he will tolerate, especially with some help to hold it up for him. But not Phoenix worms – you can almost her him say “yuck!” He also needed patience, as he often would eat then need a bit of a rest before being ready to be fed the rest of his food.
We were all cheering him on in February when he was recovering and was back to having a huge appetite. He had lost some of the fur from his chest and was showing a little pinkish skin. I looked forward to seeing him, and helping with his recovery, every week.
Then in March when Covid 19 changed everything, he and many of the other bats went in to foster care. I was hoping to be able to foster him, other bats, and other animals at my home, but I hear that he was being fostered by one of the staff people. I missed him but was happy to know he would be getting great care.
That said, I was afraid I’d never see him again. Knowing that bats should be released in summertime, I thought that if he stays in foster care, and Covid 19 forces isolation, distancing, and reduced staffing at the Wildlife Centre for long, there’s a chance he would be released before I ever saw him again.
But he’s back! And he’s doing well! He is eating on his own and being exercised regularly to get his flying muscles back into shape for him to be released.
I will start helping to fly the bats for exercise in the next week or two. In the meantime, I am happy to be able to feed and clean Leontes and see him hanging on his tea towel or hiding and resting in his fave spot underneath a piece of bark, each week.
Until he is in shape and ready to go back into the wild world.
Orphaned babies are now coming in to care at the wildlife centre. Although I am concerned about there being enough staff and volunteers to care for and feed them as often as is needed, and worried about the ones turned away due to the reduced staff capacity, I am also excited.
This is the first springtime that I am fully rabies vaccinated, which means that I can care for so many more of the wild babies who come in as patients and orphans.
This week I bottle-fed tiny baby raccoons for the first time in my life – twice! Like all of the babies, they need multiple feedings per day. I was fortunate to be able to do their mid-day feeding and their early evening bottle.
They are so small – maybe the size of a really robust kitten or a small squirrel – they can sit in one hand. They are alert, curious, and want to climb on you (and everything else). You have to scruff them quite hard (harder than I am comfortable with) to hold them. It’s tricky – they feel like they will slip out of your hand.
Like baby bunnies and squirrels, they need to be stimulated like their mum would, to pee and/or poo before feeding. Their formulas is warmed in baby jars, and then when in the nippled syringe (squirrels) or the small bottle (raccoons), you test it on your arm to ensure it’s not too hot or too cold. Raccoon babies prefer their formula much warmer than squirrel babies.
These raccoon babies are so vocal! Very communicative, with a range of happy, scared, curious, and even a purring sound.
A nice bum scratch makes them purr and it stimulates the suckling response. The little one I was feeding did eat better with a bum rub and warmer formula. They like to have something to hang on to, so holding on to my hand or fingers worked well as he guzzled his formula.
I was also able to syringe feed another baby squirrel. The tiny babies from last week have been moved to the centre’s other location, and the current group and much more like juveniles than tiny babies.
These baby squirrels are bitey and they have razor-sharp claws. I got a quiet timid scared black-furred one who just wanted to curl up inside the pillowcase I was holding it in. But still, the skin on my right hand is all sliced up (just the top layer of skin, nothing serious). He ate really well, it just took a while because I was using a small 1cc syringe and it would have been better to use a 3cc syringe.
This time last year the nursery was already full. Now there are two orphan baby raccoons, and five baby squirrels (additional squirrel babies, like the tiny one I fed last week and the group he was part of, are being cared for at the Rouge Park location).
There are also baby cottontail bunnies in care again now – about 6 of them so far. I checked on them late in the day during PM checks, but have not cared for them yet.
Another special treat of the afternoon was meeting the tiniest cutest little baby skunk!! The size of my fist – a little roly-poly beautiful black and white cutie. Staff member L described him as a little apple, he’s so fat – his mama has been taking good care of him. The centre didn’t keep him in care – he was returned to where he was found, so hopefully his mama can find him and keep caring for him. I’ve been told that it is about a month before we’d expect to see baby skunks coming in for care, so that little furball was extra special.
What joy. What a heart-filling awesome day.
Side note: N also told me that little Leontes ate on his own for the first time this past week! Yeah, Leontes!! Way to go, little guy!! She commented that the bats will come back in to care eventually, so I hope I get to see him again one day.
It is Easter Sunday, and my one-year anniversary at the wildlife centre. It’s become an important part of my life and a highlight of my week. But it is such a strange time there now, due to Covid 19, with much fewer animals in care than normal, as they are being fostered, cared for elsewhere, or released if safe to do so.
I was sad and disappointed to see that little Leontes is gone. I am glad to know that he is in good care, but I am truly saddened that I will not likely see him ever again. He will probably be released rather than returning to the centre. The snakes are gone into foster care, too. But I am happy to see Hashbrown and be able to care for the remaining bats, opossums, a very clean coyote, raccoons including a very funny little girl who should be more afraid of humans, a too-sweet skunk, a very calm gull, and other animal patients.
More small songbirds are coming in now, too: a robin, blue jay, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, juncos, sparrows, as well as a starling, and the mourning doves and pigeons as always.
Recently I’ve been able to hold a very laid-back gull, a gorgeous yellow-bellied sapsucker who is sadly in really rough shape (a small woodpecker with a beautiful bright red head, who looooves eating her orange slices despite a fractured beak and other injuries), and a tiny dark-eyed junco (a beautiful little fluffy rich slate-grey songbird), with no problem at all, for medication and treatments.
A little kinglet outsmarted me, though! Super tiny little fluffball of a bird with gorgeous yellow and orange head cap.
This one was my first in months – I had not handled songbirds since last autumn. And she escaped!
Two tiny kinglets had just arrived at the centre earlier on Sunday, and it was time for them to get oral medications, tiny droplets at a time. I was with staff member H, and when ready, I reached in under the fabric cover, into the terrarium to gently capture the first one. Which is very difficult when there are two in an enclosure, that is not big but big enough for them to fly from one end to the other, and to hide under their branches.
I should have taken out the branches. Didn’t think of that at the time. I did grasp one little kinglet, but I was being far too gentle, and it got out of my hand. It was still in the enclosure.
I then tried using the fabric cover as a scoop to push the birds into one area of the enclosure where I can then more easily grasp it. This works very well when there is one bird in the enclosure but is tricky when there are two or more together.
So I used the fabric, and had both kinglets in the far end of the terrarium. As I reached in to bring one out, it escaped and started flying around the room!
“Ruby-crowned Kinglets are fast-moving but quiet little birds…” says AllAboutBirds.com and that’s very true. Especially the part about fast.
We immediately turned off the lights, but of course escaped birds always go as high as possible toward the ceiling and fly back and forth from one end of the room to the other. Staff member H and I grabbed our nets and tried to carefully capture it. (In the meantime, the other kinglet was still under the fabric, in the enclosure.)
Staff member H netted it expertly after a few minutes. Tired little bird. I reached in, too-gently trying to grasp it, and it escaped again!
H netted it again and I covered her net with mine. I reached in and gently, firmly, grasped it in my hand, removed it from the net, and turned it around in my hand, so its head was between my index and middle fingers with my hand loosely fisted around the tiny bird. It is SO tiny and SO fragile! Among the smallest of the songbirds who come in for care, at about 3 inches tall and weighing about ¼ of an ounce… much smaller than a warbler or a chickadee.
But once securely in my hand I held it no problem, and H gave it 3 different oral medications, before I put it back with the other kinglet in the terrarium. Certainly not final sign-off worthy work, but I feel blessed to have had the experience and practice handling tiny songbirds again.
At the end of the day, I discovered that the gorgeous milk snake had shed!
I was able to remove the shed skin in one perfect piece, head to tail. And place it gently in-tact in a large Ziploc bag that I labelled with her patient number and the date on it.
Everyone has been waiting for her to shed. Which is not surprising as her wounds heal. She is the only snake who has not been placed in foster care while staffing is reduced due to Covid19, because she has been healing from some significant wounds on her belly. I noticed about 3 weeks ago that her eyes were starting to get cloudy – a sign of preparing to shed.
The beautiful snake was hiding under the large rock in her enclosure as I removed the shed skin. I let staff member J know, and since snakes don’t eat much before shedding, I was asked to bring her a little feast of a variety of small foods. Well no problem – except for the earthworms from outside.
I grabbed a fork from the kitchen and first went out the back door and into the ditch area to look for worms. I promptly stepped deeply into muck, covering my right shoe and pant hem. Ugh. No worms.
Then I went over the road to the farther ditch to dig and look under garbage in the wet ditch. No worms.
I have no idea where to find worms. On my way back into the centre, taking a route back that appeared drier, I slipped into the deep muck. Covered my left shoe. Ugh.
Ok, so wiped my feet as well as I could on the grass, then on the door mat, I went inside and went to the room where the dirty kennel cabs and waterfowl mats are hosed down. I hosed down my shoes and pants. Soaking wet shoes and socks now. Still no worms. I know nothing about wild worms.
So I went out the front door, to the park-like area in front of the building. Dug my fork into the grass. No worms. Dug into the slope of the planted area, covered in leaves. No worms. But there was a nice surprise: as I was returning to the TWC I noticed a groundhog looking at me!
A groundhog has made a home in the planted mound, in the park-like space in front of the Centre. What a treat to see her looking at me looking at her looking at me. Then back in to the Centre. I asked A if she knew where to find worms. Nope. I asked T. Good thing I asked T! She told me where to look. It was outside of course but could not be any closer or easier. I found two small wild earthworms. Thank goodness!
The milksnake’s post-shed Easter Sunday feast was complete and placed in a tiny dish in front of her, for her to enjoy.
Today’s small joy: a quick cuddle with Hashbrown the groundhog.
Today is my one year anniversary working at the wildlife centre!
I would not normally take a photo of any animal at the Centre, but Hashbrown is an education animal, not a patient, and it’s an anniversary.
I am very lucky to have time with Hashbrown. She is hilarious! Silly and mischievous and playful and moody, similar to a 3 year old human.
A few of us have scheduled play time and snuggle time with her, as part of keeping her acclimated to humans and her training. She has a job teaching the public and school children about wildlife, and these sessions are part of helping her do her job well.
Vets, animal shelters, zoos, aquariums, and wildlife hospitals have been recognized as essential services (for the animals in care, closed to the public), and I am so glad to be able to go to care for the patients and get some quality snuggle time in with sweet Hashbrown!
I can’t believe how the world has changed since my last post. It is such a strange time at the wildlife centre, a discombobulating time in the world right now, and I worry about the animals in care.
Wildlife sanctuaries, vets, zoos, aquariums, and other places that care for living creatures have been deemed essential services – for the animals. Thank goodness. Closed to the public.
The wildlife centre is a hospital, not a public attraction, so closing to the public does not make much difference. But having significantly reduced staff and volunteers going in, and being able to accept fewer animals into care, is very different. The wild patients are in enclosures and need to be cared for until they are ready to be released back into the wild.
Although she’s been moodier and bitey lately, a little silliness and snuggles with Hashbrown the groundhog are the best part of my week, by far. What a joy.
Little Leontes, a tiny silver haired bat who I have come to know and adore, was still there when I went to take care of him and the other bats over the last few weeks. Juliette (bat) ate directly out of the dish like a pro one week and then has been acting really strangely – very active and chirpy and restless. I am also a little worried about Ursula, whose her wrists are really swollen and painful looking, but apparently are improving. But the other silver haired bats have gone into foster care, and most of the little and big brown bats, too.
I have offered to foster care for Leontes and other bats, the spunky little brown snakes, turtles, and other patients from the Centre. I hope I am able to. I adore them and want to do all I can to ensure they get the care they need. And it’s good for my heart and spirit.
Now, at the Centre, I am able to help care for a wider variety of the patients again, which is nice. Racoons, opossums, birds, squirrels, a skunk, mice, coyote, and a beautiful beaver. I take the nocturnal animals their food (many are rabies vector species so I am lucky to be vaccinated and able to care for them), and I am back to doing PM checks to ensure they are ok and have all of the food and water they need for the night. This means that I get to see and check on almost all of the patients.
I had been going in expecting a huge workload and to stay very late, due to reduced staffing. I packed food and drinks just in case. But because of a reduced cleaning schedule and because there are fewer animals in care – many are being cared for in the homes of staff and volunteers, some are being moved to their other location, and ones who can go back into the wild a little early are being released when safe to do so – we have not had to stay much later than usual.
I am now wearing my scrubs, facemask, and latex gloves before I even go into the building, plus my hat and glasses. Gloves at all times, as usual. I’ve started carrying my cell phone in a Ziploc bag, that I sanitize thoroughly while I am there and as I leave. I sanitize my face around my facemask, and my glasses handles and frame during each shift and again when I leave. I suspect that this will not be good for the plastic, but oh well. And of course, I wash my hands A LOT and sanitize before I leave – and wear fresh gloves as I leave. I always have changed my clothes and shoes at the end of each shift before I go home and continue to do that of course. The scrubs now go directly into a plastic bag. With Lysol wiping of my bags, face, arms, etc. as I change. I also come home and take a hot shower immediately and change again into new clothes. And all of the clothes – the scrubs and travel change go directly into the laundry – I don’t wear them again until cleaned. I am doing everything I can think of to ensure that I don’t pick up or spread Covid19.
I will keep going back to the wildlife centre for as long as I can. The animals need the care. I am being obsessively clean and cautious. And I feel so much happier, clearer headed, more physically active, more alive and fulfilled when I have been there to help.
Three new swans are in care at the wildlife centre right now. All are victims of fishhooks.
Two are brothers, but they don’t seem to like each other much. Staff tried to place them in the same room together, and it didn’t go well. They are adult males and that rivalry overrides any family bonds. Two of the three birds are from Tommy Thompson Park, so I assume those are the brothers. They now each have their own large pool in their own care room.
In addition to Tommy Thompson Park, are also swans in High Park, Bluffer’s Park in Scarborough, LaSalle Park in Burlington, and other urban locations, but I don’t know where the third bird in care came from.
The New York Times reported in spring of last year: “Restoration efforts in Ontario, Canada, have helped a once-vanquished population to flourish. And they have been sighted in new habitats in the United States, too.”
“Winter is a social time for swans and as a result we often see as many as 100 swans coming from further north to enjoy their ‘social afternoon,’ says a Toronto Region Conservation Society article about the Trumpeter Swans in Bluffers Park.
This is the time of year when the Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program will tag and band as many untagged swans as possible “so that the Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program can follow their progress, breeding patterns and degree of success in relearning their migratory routes. Tagging the swans lets us not only track their movements, but also to understand their behaviour.”
“Bluffers Park has been home to a breeding
pair for over 25 years. The previous male, Charley or Whitey as he was known,
was a huge favourite in the boating community and he was here for almost 20
years. Unfortunately, he had to be put to sleep after a deadly encounter with
discarded fishing tackle.”
Every year, Toronto Wildlife Centre admits
animals that have been affected or injured by discarded fishing equipment. “Hooks
can get embedded and cause infection and injury, lines get tangled around feet
and wings and impede mobility or cause constriction issues, and sinkers when
swallowed can cause deadly lead poisoning,” says the TWC.
The swans, ducks, and other aquatic birds affected often need x-rays and surgery to remove the metal paraphernalia and repair the internal damage. Then lots of care to heal before being ready to return to the wild.
And I gotta say, from what I have seen so far, swans are not easy patients! They can be spazzy and pool-jumpers. (Getting out of their care pool can be dangerous for the swans, as they can get injured.) They are often stressed out, aggressive, feisty, and want to get back to their home and mate.
Shockingly, I just read that, despite being
native to North America, thirty years ago there were no trumpeters left in
Margaret Bream wrote in a Toronto Star
article that, “Trumpeter swans …were once found on a large swath of the
continent. But the huge birds, the largest waterfowl extant in the world, were
hunted to the brink of extinction in the last century, with only a few small
colonies remaining out West. The birds were prized as food, their extremely
long white feathers and their leather. … But Lumsden [Harry Lumsden, a retired
Ministry of Natural Resources biologist and founder of the Ontario Trumpeter
Swan Restoration Program] obtained a few wild birds and eggs from the Western
colonies, brought them back to Ontario and raised them as coddled captives.
When the birds were a few years old and ready to fend for themselves, they were
released back into the wild in this province.”
Harry Lumsden, who founded the Ontario
Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program, was honoured with the Order of Canada in
2004. The Governor-General’s news release said, “he has shared his
knowledge of aviculture with the general public. He has inspired volunteers to
follow his lead in breeding Canada geese and trumpeter swans, successfully
reintroducing these birds to Ontario. Known for his passion and dedication, he
continues to stimulate public interest in wildlife conservation.”
The Trumpeter Swan Society website says: Trumpeter Swans are native only to North America. They are the largest waterfowl in the world. Although most populations are increasing, they are one of our least abundant native birds with about 63,000 Trumpeters on the entire continent.
The Society website also says that swan
parents teach their young migration routes, wintering sites, and how to survive
in the wild. Sadly, with the near extinction of Trumpeter Swans, came the loss
of migration traditions and knowledge of local landscapes. Swan restoration
programs in the 1980s was with eggs from Alaska. The swans hatched from
those eggs had no knowledge of their new landscape. As swans began to slowly
return to the landscape, they had to pioneer and learn new migration
traditions, find secure wintering sites, and discover nesting habitat in areas
where they had been gone for more than a century.
There is a “Trumpeter Watch” where
anyone can report a Trumpeter Swan sighting. This helps swan managers across
North America to track where the swans are spending their winters and summers,
and the migration time in between. You can report a swan sighting here.
Turtles, birds, fish, and raptors like hawks
and owls who hunt near water, are all frequent victims of fishing tackle garbage.
If you see an animal who is tangled in fishing
line, or if you know a wild animal has swallowed a hook, contact a permitted
wildlife rehabilitator for advice. If you are in the greater Toronto
area, you can call the Toronto Wildlife Centre Hotline at 416-631-6002 and
there is an assistance request form online here.
“To form a perfect conception of the beauty and elegance of these Swans, you must observe them when they are not aware of your proximity, and as they glide over the waters of some secluded inland pond. On such occasions, the neck, which at other times is held stiffly upright, moves in graceful curves, now bent forward, now inclined backwards over the body. Now with an extended scooping movement the head becomes immersed for a moment, and with a sudden effort a flood of water is thrown over the back and wings, when it is seen rolling off in sparkling globules, like so many large pearls. The bird then shakes its wings, beats the water, and as if giddy with delight shoots away, gliding over and beneath the surface of the liquid element with surprising agility and grace. Imagine, reader, that a flock of fifty Swans are thus sporting before you, as they have more than once been in my sight, and you will feel, as I have felt, more happy and void of care than I can describe.” — John James Audubon (1843)
A few resources:
Toronto Wildlife Centre is Canada’s largest and busiest wildlife centre, and the GTA’s only wildlife hospital: www.torontowildlifecentre.com
The Trumpeter Swan Coalition is committed to
ensuring LaSalle Park Harbour, the winter home of 1/4 of Ontario’s Trumpeter
Swans, is protected: www.trumpeterswancoalition.com
The Trumpeter Swan Society has been North
America’s leader of Trumpeter Swan conservation with a mission to assure the vitality
and welfare of wild Trumpeter Swans: www.trumpeterswansociety.org
Did you know that it is now raccoon mating season?? I sure didn’t. Maybe you have been hearing raccoon fights in your backyard or alleyway. Aside from the raccoons in care at the wildlife centre, I have not seen a raccoon since last autumn. And now there are so many raccoons in care at the Centre that it’s getting tricky to find rooms and enclosures for them all. I asked the staff why we are getting so many raccoons right now. And that’s how I learned that it’s mating season.
Male raccoons are coming in to the Centre with wounds and abscesses on their backs from fights with other males. They really fight! Not just a show of aggression to scare away the other male. They scratch, bite, and apparently even bite-throw each other, as they fight for a female.
I would have never thought I’d be curious about the sex life of racoons, but it is Valentine’s Day and Family Day long weekend, after all…
Male raccoons are
promiscuous. After mating, male raccoons sometimes stay with the females for up
to a week before searching for another female. And the bigger a raccoon
is, the more action he gets. The most dominant heaviest male will do 50-60% of
the mating with the females within the group’s territory, says the Wildpro Electronic Encyclopaedia.
Female raccoons usually mate
with only one male. They only have a small window of time – only three or four
days per mating season when they can conceive. Raccoon Attic Guide says that “during
the three to four days in which conception is on the table, raccoons will meet
as a social group, foreplay and copulation being repeated during these nights,
with sessions that last for about an hour. And while the strongest male will
always get the chance to ensure the survival of its genes by copulating with
more females… [he] can’t possibly mate with all the available females, the
weaker males also eventually get the chance to breed. The urban female raccoon
will give birth to an average of two to three litters during her lifetime.”
After gestation of about nine
weeks, the female raccoon gives birth to three or four kits usually. The babies
are born blind and deaf, but their face masks are fully recognizable. Their
eyes and ears open at around three weeks, and by about 7 weeks old their eyes can
focus. The kits remain in the den until they are 8-10 weeks old and will stay
with their mother for a year or so. The mother raises her kits alone.
Mating season means injured
raccoons coming in to the Toronto Wildlife Centre now, but it also means that
it will be time for orphan and injured babies to come in starting around April
According to PBS Raccoon Nation, in the wild
a raccoon has a life expectancy of about 2 to 3 years, but in captivity a
raccoon can live up to 20 years.
Fun fact I discovered (thanks to Wikipedia) while looking into raccoons: The word raccoon in English is based on an Algonquian (Powhatan) word meaning “he scratches with the hands.” Similarly, the Spanish word mapache is based on an Aztec word meaning “one who takes everything in its hands.” But in many other languages, the raccoon is called a wash bear: Waschbär (‘wash-bear’) in German, Huan Xiong (‘wash-bear’) in Chinese, dvivón róchetz (‘washing-bear’) in Hebrew, orsetto lavatore (‘little washer bear’) in Italian, and araiguma (‘washing-bear’) in Japanese.