Three baby racoons are now in the hands of a rehabilitator after their home was burned.
Firefighters from Klondyke and other departments were conducting a controlled burn May 1 near Chadbourn when a hollow tree beside the abandoned home caught fire. The three kits were washed out when firefighters extinguished the flames.
“They sprayed up in there,” Brianna Juhl said, “and these babies just out washed out. There wasn’t any sign of the mother.”
Brianna said the firefighters – which included her husband Jonathan – put the babies back in the nest, and finished with the exercise.
“They figured the female would come back,” Brianna said.
That evening, however, when the Juhls returned to check on the kits, the couple heard them crying as soon as they pulled in at the burn site.
“There are coyotes and everything else out there,” Brianna said. “We were scared to just leave them there. It was obvious the mama hadn’t been back – they were hungry, cold and wet.”
Brianna said they carefully gathered the babies, one of whom had some singed fur, and headed for home. An internet search turned up information on providing emergency care, which required a trip to Whiteville and two stores to complete.
“We didn’t know what else to do,” Brianna said, “but we couldn’t just leave them there to die.”
Raccoons are one of the leading rabies vectors in North Carolina. While no rabid coons have been reported this year, the state strictly regulates handling vector species.
“We were well aware of the danger of rabies,” she said, “so I made sure we stayed double-gloved. We didn’t take any chances. I have no idea how to care for these babies, and I wanted to get them to someone who could save them.”
Special licensing as well as pre-exposure vaccinations are required to rehabilitate raccoons, foxes and other species with a tendency toward rabies. Most rehabbers don’t want to go to the extra expense to provide care for raccoons.
Brianna made contact with a local wildlife rehabilitator, but that rehabber is not licensed to deal with rabies vectors. After a few more telephone calls, Brianna said, she and Jonathan went to Burgaw to meet Cathy Burns of Predator and Prey Sanctuary. Burns checked the babies out, then transferred them to Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter (OWLS).
The couple hopes to visit the baby coons – named Timber, Ember and Rascal – before they are released.
“They were just the cutest things,’ Brianna said.