An Unusual Rescue

It has been a long, dry spell since I was last able to spend an entire morning walking with Daisy deer. Having lost both her fawns by early July, Daisy had been free all summer to run with the local herd of wild deer. Not seeing her around our home much, I suspected she was spending most of her time down at the river just a half-mile from here. Any time I walked to the river it was common for me to startle whitetail deer along the way.  We did see Daisy a few early mornings down at the feed and water area throughout the summer and fall, but she was often with other does and a fawn, and we did not wish to disturb her little herd of friends, so we simply observed. We also felt comforted in being able to observe her at night via a couple of game cameras set up in the woods. These nighttime photographs also helped us understand wildlife activity going on in our area. I was not surprised at the frequent visits of red foxes, as we often see them during daylight hours, but there were also sightings of raccoons, and owls too. Lately, we were seeing a few whitetail bucks in the mix. After all, it is the height of the rutting season. If there are does around, there are sure to be bucks nearby!

Monday morning before the Thanksgiving holiday, we spotted Daisy down at the corn feeder by herself. FD and I had gotten up late, as he had taken the week off to work on a project under our house. I had not even managed to get my coffee yet, but I knew that would have to wait. I told FD he was on his own for breakfast, grabbed my camouflage jacket, a blaze orange headband (it is hunting season here), and my camera and out the door I went. Daisy was already retreating into the woods. Had I dallied around much longer, she would have disappeared and I would have missed my chance to walk with her.

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Daisy’s stance alerts me to something on the ground.
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Daisy seems to be sizing up the situation.

After about two hours of following Daisy all through our woods and crossing into another neighbor’s wooded area, then finally jumping a fence back into the pecan orchard, she made tracks towards the old river channel. I got the feeling all along she was trying to lose me. A couple of times she took off on a fast trot, and there was no way for me to keep up. I saw her go up over the dike next to the old river channel and when I finally reached the top, I saw her just a short distance away, intently looking at something on the ground, but keeping her distance. I had seen this look from her many times – chance meetings with small mammals often kept her on alert, and she would tentatively investigate. Scent was usually what triggered the type of response she made. I was always amazed at how quickly she could exit from real danger, like dogs or coyotes. Smaller mammals seemed only to spur her curiosity.  Daisy seemed to know to keep a distance from skunks, while she did not fear confrontation with a fox or raccoon. But this morning, after giving a juvenile raccoon a quick look and a sniff, she simply turned away and leaped over the fence and down into the old river channel. At this point, my morning walk with Daisy was over.

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Trembling and wobbling about, this young raccoon was tired and panting.
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I could tell by the size, this was a juvenile. I think ear shots are sweet from behind!
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With just a little observing, I was quite sure the raccoon could not see me. Rather it reacted to my voice and footsteps, attempting to move away from me on shaky legs. It fell over several times.

I knew immediately something was wrong with the young raccoon. It was not steady on its feet – trembling and teetering sideways or pitching forward, it could not seem to keep its balance. As I snapped a few photos and approached it a bit more closely, I wondered if it could even see me. The little raccoon seemed to hear me but did not look directly at me. Falling over as it tried to move away from my voice and footsteps, I could see she was a little female.

I had a bad feeling that this little girl had distemper or perhaps rabies. I was not sure about symptoms of either but I knew both canine and feline distemper was common in wild mammals, especially raccoons. We did not often see rabid animals, but I knew if that was the case I would ask FD to end the raccoon’s misery. Of course I am too much of a coward to handle a wild animal of any kind. FD has always been the one to handle adult raptors and wild mammals. So, I wasn’t about to throw my good camo jacket over this raccoon and carry it back a quarter of a mile to our home with my big camera in tow. Since FD was home that day, a quick text message to him produced an offer to fetch me with the buggy and have a look at the raccoon.

It was sad to watch this little female painstakingly inching along.
It was sad to watch this little female painstakingly inching along.
She flops down in exhaustion for a minute.
She flops down in exhaustion for a minute.
The little girl manages to find some cover in a pile of branches beneath a tree.
The little girl manages to find some cover in a pile of branches beneath a tree.
FD coming to our rescue in the electric buggy.
FD coming to our rescue in the electric buggy.

By the time he arrived, the little female had managed to hide in some downed limbs. FD put on leather gloves and pulled the growling, snarling juvenile from her hiding spot. He put her in a pet porter and we covered it with a blanket. I was thankful to have a ride in the electric buggy back to the house. Daisy’s traipsing around for two hours had worn me out! Once at the house, I called WildCare, which is a wildlife rehabilitation facility about an hour drive from our home. I often take them birds or animals that are injured, or a species that I am not equipped to handle. After speaking with a staff member, it was decided that I should bring the little raccoon in for an examination. Even though it sounded like distemper, the WildCare staff member suggested the raccoon could be suffering from an injury, or possibly it was a juvenile that had not managed to make it on its own and was weak from starvation.

A week later, after the Thanksgiving holiday and a trip out of town to visit family in Dallas, I emailed WildCare to check on the raccoon. Here is the kind reply I received the next evening:

Lori,
Thank you for coming to this little raccoon’s rescue and for checking in.  I am sorry to be writing with the sad news that the raccoon was diagnosed with distemper after 48 hours of supportive care and treatment for symptoms that are sometimes related to distemper.  There was in addition an injury to the pelvis.  It is common for animals ill with distemper to have secondary injuries and we suspect this was the case with this patient.  After this diagnosis, the most humane decision we could make was to euthanize the raccoon.  If you have any questions regarding this decision please let us know.  
-WildCare 

Though this was sad news, I could not help but be thankful that Daisy had led me to the little female raccoon. We often think of rescue as saving or helping someone, having a mental picture of an outcome of bringing the victim to a better place or situation. This was a different kind of rescue call for me. It was an act of kindness and caring… of humanity. And, while I did not come out of it feeling elated with happiness about doing a good deed, I know that providing comfort and ending suffering was, ultimately, the gift in this rescue situation.

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© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


48 thoughts on “An Unusual Rescue

    1. Thank you. I’m still sad when I look at those photographs. Raccoons are so cute and sweet – especially when they are young and when they are not growling!! Yes, Daisy is my great love. She will be 5 years old in May of 2016. I am glad she still returns to her home here, and that she has her babies in this area each spring. Usually in April, while she is quite pregnant, she gets needy for attention so I get to see her every day. Daisy really is special! 🙂

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    1. Thank you. I am glad too that she didn’t suffer. There was never a thought that I would leave her there. Suffering, starving, or being taken easily by a predator (and possibly spreading distemper) was never an option to me. I guess I would want someone to help me out of my misery if it were me – or at least it would be nice to feel loving hands care for me.

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  1. You are so right that it was a humane rescue. Sometimes when we want things to be a certain way, the ‘answer is no’. I love, love the ear shot, and am so glad you got a walk with Daisy. Our resident roo visited us this morning, just when I didn’t have my camera with me, but my husband and I were both outside and talking quietly with him so he could get to know who is that leaves that nice bowl of water for him every day. He’s looking healthier than last time we saw him, which is good. Lovely, sensitive post Lori. Thank you.

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    1. Oh I do hope you will post about your roo sometime! We speak softly too, when Daisy’s friends are around. I hope there will come a day when I can spend entire days sitting near the river so that the whitetail deer will be used to my presence. Maybe when FD retires I can manage that. Thank you for your always kind-hearted comments, Ardys.

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  2. I had to make the decision to have a stray cat with serious disease put down, and it was as hard as if I’d had her as my own for years. On the other hand, she received good care, she didn’t die alone, and was comfortable until the end. It still brings tears to my eyes to think of it, but it was the right thing to do — and you did the right thing, too.

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    1. I believe it is a deep sense of compassion that makes us so emotional about the decision to end a life – even when we have no real connection to it. Nature is often a horror to the elderly, sick, diseased, and orphaned. FD and I have witnessed some sad situations where it was necessary to put a wild animal down ourselves. I am thankful FD can do it… I cannot shoot anything. I also tend to think along the lines that if I was in peril or suffering, I would want someone to help me through it – however it had to be. I thought about how scared this little raccoon must have been, and I hoped it felt our loving energy and goodwill. It helped me to know the Wildcare staff gave it a chance. I think you will always remember the stray cat, and you know deep down it was the right thing to do… and you did it with a compassionate heart.

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  3. It is a good thing that you found the raccoon that was so ill and also injured. It was the kind thing to do and the humane thing to do when the wildlife center euthanized her. It is sad but distemper is contagious to certain species of animals so that is also a good thing that the poor animal was removed from the environment. The photos of Daisy are excellent.

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    1. Thank you, Yvonne. I can’t help to photograph Daisy any time I see her. I know I probably have thousands of photos of her! We have seen distemper in skunks around here as well. I understand there is both a feline and canine distemper that affects many mammals in the wild.

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    1. Daisy, I am sure, was trying to lose me that day. She was busy sniffing and I feel she was checking out scent that a buck or bucks left behind. No one wants their mother hanging out when they’re trying to find a “date”!! I’m glad I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

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    1. I knew distemper happened with dogs and cats, but didn’t think much about it in the wild. We see a lot of raccoons here, and occasionally have had trouble with them getting into the chicken barn. At that point, they are no longer sweet! They can be quite terrifying when approached too. The growl is very scary!

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        1. Wow! I’m glad I haven’t happened on a crazy critter! I have had a few scares with skunks though. I tend to freeze in place and hope and pray I am not discovered! Daisy keeps from skunks. I never smelled on her that she had an encounter with one, but I bet with her sense of smell that she does not like the scent and probably can detect them from far away. Distemper sounds like a terrible disease by what I was reading. I’m thankful we helped this raccoon escape a very grim ending.

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  4. That is a very sad story Lori, but as you said, heart warming too that both you and Daisy (and your other half in his buggy), managed to ease the suffering of that poor raccoon.
    I’m constantly learning something new every time I read one of your posts, this time what a raccoon actually looks like, they are cute wee critters aren’t they, and the fact that you have to wear a bright orange scarf during the hunting season – I assume so that you don’t get shot by accident! Thankfully, we don’t have a hunting season as such, there are a few areas in the Highlands where hunting is allowed, but fortunately, these are fairly few and far between!! 🙂

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    1. Raccoons are very cute. I think they look like masked bandits, and they make a little rattling noise when they’re busy cleaning their food or climbing trees. They can be a nuisance too. They often try to raid our food barrels on the back porch. And, they can be vicious. They are famous for killing chickens. You are correct about the orange scarf – it is to make me visible during rifle season. This is the reason we try to keep a reflective orange collar on Daisy year-round. It helps to keep her safe, since hunters know she is human-friendly. She is more wild these days and not so likely to just walk up to strangers as she used to be.

      I learn a lot too, putting these blog posts together. Generally I end up doing a little research, and there is always something to learn! 🙂

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      1. I can’t imagine a raccoon being vicious, they just look so cute!! Certainly a classic case of the old saying, ‘You can’t judge a book by it’s cover’!!! I can however imagine them being a nuisance, they just look naturally mischievous 🙂
        It’s brilliant that you’ve put that scarf on Daisy, it doesn’t bear thinking about, that she could be shot by mistake.
        That’s one of the things I love about blogging, Lori, ids that I’m constantly looking things up and learning too 🙂

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  5. What a beautiful caring person you are, Lori. It is a sad fact that ill creatures in the wild often suffer greatly before they die. Your kind efforts made sure this little one left the world in a more peaceful way, with far less suffering. Thank you, Lori, for another beautifully written story from the heart that teaches more about wild creatures and human reactions. I’m also impressed by you following Daisy around for 2 hours! I’m not sure I would have persevered for that long. Actually, I suppose I would have too if I had been her deer mother. When you’ve raised these creatures they mean so much! Have a wonderful week, dear woman. 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Jane. Sometimes I’m probably too sensitive about animal life on our planet. I am always glad to know other people who feel compassion and caring for wild critters. Oh, I’ve walked for a whole morning with Daisy, and once after a storm I sat with her on the wet ground for an hour as the clouds cleared away and the stars shone brightly. I finally got up as my pants were too soggy for comfort!! Her world is amazing, and I’m happy to spend time with her when she’s in the mood to hang out with her strange human mother. Buddy and Punkin the squirrels showed up yesterday. I think poor Punkin is in heat as she had five different males pursuing her including Buddy. I felt bad for her. In so many ways life in the wild is tough. I’m not sure humans could make it in the same circumstances.

      Now look… I know you could manage two hours!! I think you have endured much longer with Lycra Man on a hike!! You must be a very tenacious and persevering woman!! ha ha!! Observing Daisy and feeling her energy while following her through the woods is something I can’t explain. The time flies by! 🙂

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  6. She sure was cutie! I’m glad you and FD were able to help her get relief, though. She must have been in a heap of pain. We have a beautiful little wolf here with an injured front leg that we see occasionally. I think of her often now that the snows have arrived. She tries to keep up with the gang, but it’s clear she’s in pain. I wish we could help, but I don’t see how we can, other than to tell our resident wolf biologist, which we did.

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    1. I believe anything we feel led to do in helping wildlife is essential in our own well-being. It is the same with treating our planet kindly. We just do the best we can. And sometimes we see in nature, that those who have the most to overcome, often become the toughest and most resilient of all. I hope your little wolf friend manages to heal.

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  7. The raccoon’s eyes, especially in that last photo, just draw you in, don’t they? You made the last couple days for this little one much more comfortable, kind of like hospice care.
    Lori, your photos have such clarity. Did you get a new lens? Nice work!

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    1. Raccoon’s are so sweet looking. I felt so helpless watching this little girl try to move around. I was able to get fairly close to her since it seemed she couldn’t see me, but since I had my 400mm zoom lens, I didn’t need to risk getting very close. It’s a Canon image stabilizing 100-400mm zoom lens – same one I have had for several years now. It works really well for my walks to the river, but unfortunately, it is cumbersome and a tad heavy.

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  8. Hi Lori. It has taken me a while to catch up with your recent posts. Life has been very eventful for you and there has been much to observe and ponder upon. I wonder what life will serve up next for you.

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    1. Hello Margaret. I hope you have been doing well – I have certainly enjoyed your garden tours lately. There is always some new adventure here, but this year has been a bit odd with Daisy gone much of the time. I am thankful there is plenty going on most every day whether it is a day’s work, or a walk to the river, or simply spending time observing activity in our own woodlands. I never have to wonder what is next… something is sure to present itself fairly quickly! 😀

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  9. This story reminds me of the time a few years ago when I found a raccoon walking in circles on the busy road in front of my house. I was fairly certain it had rabies. I did my best to block traffic so nobody would run over it, and I called the local sheriff’s dispatch to see if they could send someone out to end its suffering. I’ll never forget their response when I said I was trying to keep it from getting run over: “Well actually, that’s what we hope happens.” I guess that would have ended its suffering too, but it just seemed like such a callous response, and I was furious. As it turned out, I was unable to continue blocking traffic and someone did indeed run over the poor little guy.

    I’m thankful that you and FD were caring enough to try to save the life of the little female you found.

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    1. Oh, Kim, how tragic for you! When I get calls from people who need help with wildlife, many times I am the second or third contact they’ve made. Law enforcement and even game wardens often have a callus demeanor with the public. I know many of them are up to their eyeballs in other problems, and wildlife takes a backseat. I am fortunate here. Our county game wardens are good people. I am also fortunate that FD can end suffering for those that are fatally ill or injured. We just weren’t sure with this little raccoon. And after speaking with the woman at WildCare, I realized it could be something as simple as an injury or starvation. I am so thankful that WildCare is just an hour away. That is certainly doable when it comes to saving a critter!

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  10. I’m glad she is not suffering anymore, but amazed that you two would handle the animal not knowing if it was rabies or only distemper. I am scared spitless of rabies! 😐

    Thank you, Lori and FD for helping this wild creature to end its suffering.

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    1. Lynda, I am not courageous enough to handle raccoons or opossums. Their hissing, spitting and growling scares the pants off of me! FD is bolder and does well apprehending animals and birds. I’m also not able to handle raptors. FD is a sort of animal and bird whisperer I think. He’s amazing with them. And of course he is very careful.

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