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PULLMAN, Wash.—Six orphaned newborn raccoons, called kits, are currently being bottle-fed at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Five live currently in an insulated school lunch box right now in the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s Exotic and Wildlife Section. They are about as cute as one can imagine with their characteristic bandit’s mask and large, dexterous paws grasping the air as they suckle a special formula from bottles.
Feedings are every three hours around the clock. The kits are about four inches long.
The first five male kits came to WSU when a regional power company’s crew went to investigate a power outage in north Idaho, near Coeur d’Alene. At the site, workers found the mother electrocuted along with one of the littermates. The electrical workers contacted WSU immediately about the orphaned kits.
The sixth little female came from the Kennewick, Wash., area after it was likely dragged from a nest by a predator and left crying out in a homeowner’s yard. Otherwise it was uninjured and is about a week older than the first five males.
“Wildlife often have deadly contact with electrical power equipment,” explained Nickol Finch, the WSU veterinarian and head of the 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 all power outages, according to the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. Squirrels remain the most common cause 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, 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. While some may feel that it is cruel, it is also how the young of animals like coyotes and hawks eat and survive.”
Raccoons rehabilitate well and can be returned to the wild. The kits currently being cared for at WSU will eventually be released away from people, after a stint as teenagers at a wildlife rehabilitation center.