CLINTON — Two raccoon kits (babies) rescued by Kirkland police officers in Clinton earlier this month and placed in the custody of caretakers are on their way to making a full recovery back to nature.
Orphaned on or about June 7, after their mother became a victim of a passing motorist on Fountain Street near Chestnut Street, the two babies were seen by area residents looking confused and walking in circles on the shoulder of the road, according to police sources.
Fearing the two bandit-eyed babies would be hit by a passing car themselves, Clinton resident Dorothy Harrington called police to come out and capture them for their own safety, according to official police reports.
However, Kirkland Police Chief Dan English said before they could get to the scene, a new situation arose complicating matters even more.
“By the time we got there the two rascals had crawled up into a pick-up truck’s engine compartment when the driver stopped to avoid hitting them,” English said.
Kirkland Police Officers Shawn Occhipinti, Jimmy Zwjiacz, Joe Scarafile and Chief English all responded to the call.
The officers realizing the danger of the young kits being inside the truck engine crawled under the vehicle to retrieve the wayward wildlife.
“We sort of prodded them with a slim-jim from up top,” English said. “As they came down we put on gloves and took hold of them.
“I think the sly devils wanted to get away, probably looking to avoid arrest,” said Occhipinti, with a smile on his face.
Chief English also joked he thought about charging the furry rascals with “unauthorized use of a motor vehicle” but changed his mind realizing it would be kind of tough to get a conviction, after all they are minors.
A third kit who was a little too slick for capture was also struck by a car and killed, according to wildlife officials.
The two who were taken into protective custody however were transported to the Woodhaven Wildlife Center in Chadwicks.
Opened in 1997 by owner/operator Judy Cusworth, the non-profit wildlife center sits on 150 acres off Oneida Street about a quarter mile up, on the right, from Red Hill Road. The compound, which sits back off the road about 200 yards, consists of indoor, outdoor cages and dens, a large three-stall garage, an animal nursery, four ponds and Cusworth’s home.
At the present time Cusworth is tending to several wild skunks, a few baby grey squirrels and over 20 raccoons of all ages, including now the two Clinton found kits.
Initially, Cusworth said she didn’t have the room for two more raccoons, what with the 20 she already has. But when she realized it was the police department asking she thought “what am I going to do...say no?”
So she made room for the wilderness waifs.
“Right now they’re about 8-10 weeks old,” Cusworth said. “They need raccoon formula for now and after a few months they’ll start eating regular cat or dog food, also fruits and vegetables.”
Cusworth said she will take care of them until August or so and then she will release them on her property where they will adapt to their normal living environment. Had they been released now they certainly would’ve died without their mother’s natural milk to feed them.
Cusworth said they’re release has to be gradual, it’s a release done in stages.
“Once they get a few months older we’ll put them in pre-release cages up in the woods,” she explained. “I’ll still give them food and water, but the pre-release cages give them the opportunity to get reacquainted with nature and nature with them, meaning other animals wills come up to the cages and the raccoons can get used to them. After 10 days to two weeks- I’ll just open the door to the cage so they can come out if they want to. Eventually they will stop using the cages.”
The next phase is den boxes Cusworth continued.
“Den boxes are wooden boxes with a hole cut in them, “ Cusworth said. “I’ll still feed and water them, but the den boxes sort of resemble trees...and eventually they will gravitate from those too and aclimate into the woods full-time.”
Cusworth said North American raccoons can live up to 10 years in the wild. That is if nobody hunts them...or hits them in the middle of road.
She said these Clinton kits should have a healthy life in front of them.
With so many of these furry creatures running around one might think Cusworth would name the little critters. Asked if she did her reply was not what was expected.
“I named them when I first started in this business,” she said. “ But then it just got to hard to remember who was who, and which one was which...sort of like the boyfriends I’ve had over the 60-plus-years of my adult life.”