HAMILTON – Adele Coon isn’t sleeping quite as well as usual these past few days.
Of course, that’s what happens to anyone who takes a new baby into their home.
Just about every four hours – both night and day – she is awakened to a ruckus coming from a glass aquarium in her living room. When the rumbling turns to roars, Coon knows the two baby raccoons inside need to be fed again.
Coon is a well-known volunteer wildlife rehabilitation expert living on the edge of Hamilton.
On Tuesday, someone dropped off the pair of raccoons captured in the southern reaches of Ravalli County after a felled tree inadvertently knocked over another tree being used by a mother raccoon to raise her young.
“The mother raccoon came flying out of the tree and ran away screaming,” Coon said. “My guess is the people didn’t even know that it was a nest tree. Raccoons are mostly nocturnal. They may have not even seen them before.”
The two babies the mother raccoon left behind were so young that their eyes had yet to open.
While Coon has helped rear raccoons before, none have ever been quite this young. The two took readily to being bottle fed, but their tiny stomachs need to be filled every few hours.
“They can get pretty loud when they’re hungry,” Coon said. “They let you know when it’s time. Right now, they basically sleep and eat.”
As they get a little older, she’ll add a little baby cereal to the mix. Once their teeth arrive, their diet will change to soggy puppy food.
“Right now, they are terribly messy,” Coon said. “Usually, I would turn them over to someone else, but right now there isn’t anyone else. People tend to burn out. It’s a lot of work.”
She plans to care for them over the next couple of months, which should be long enough for them to gain enough size so they can fend for themselves. The raccoons will be returned to an area that’s near where they were found.
“They will be relocated someplace where they won’t create too much of a nuisance to people,” Coon said. “It can be kind of tricky finding a good place. They are both males. Since raccoons are territorial, if we put them someplace where there’s another male, he could kill them.”
While the baby raccoons might seem kind of cute right now, Coon is very clear that they would not make a good pet.
“Raccoons are escape artists,” she said. “Once they’re free, they will run through your house, get in cupboards and throw everything out. They can make a huge mess. They are very smart, very curious and very agile. People shouldn’t even think about keeping one as a pet.”
She also urges people to be especially careful this time of year when it comes to cutting down trees or burning slash piles.
“Spring is a poor time of year to cut dead trees or burn because lots of slash piles and even piles of grass contain helpless baby birds and mammals, who are often the victims,” Coon said. “These (raccoons) don’t have their eyes open yet and they are not happy about their new conditions. They will adjust, but would have been much better off being raised by their mother.
“She may have been injured when the tree fell,” Coon said. “She definitely will miss her babies.”