Maxine Baird, the founder of A New Hope animal sanctuary in Georgia has raised more than 200 raccoons in her lifetime. She is a firm believer that all animals deserve a life free from cruelty and exploitation. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) asked her to take in a dangerously aggressive raccoon.
Baird said at first it began as a temporary placement. “We only have one raccoon enclosure [at A New Hope], which has another raccoon in it. But since she was described as so aggressive, I assumed that they probably wouldn’t get along, so we were just going to hold her for a couple of days.”
The DNR told Baird that the poor raccoon suffered years of abuse and had been kept in a suspended wire cage her entire life. Although raccoons have a life expectancy of only two to three years in the wild, in captivity, they can live up to twenty. Baird estimated the raccoon to be about four years old. She was an extraordinary raccoon, an albino with white fur and pink ears.
When the raccoon was brought to A New Hope, her fur was matted, and her skin was covered in sores. “She smelled horrific,” Baird said. “I mean, she smelled so bad. She was covered in feces, urine — so much to the point that she had urine burns all over her rear and stomach.”
Raccoons are known to have highly sensitive paws. Because they rely on their paws for tactile stimulus to interact with the world around them, touch is more important than sight or scent.
“The officer who delivered her said he doubted she’d ever had her feet on solid ground before,” Baird said. “This was especially sad because raccoons are sensitive in their hands — it’s one of their most dominant senses. Her sores must be pretty excruciating.”
DNR warned her that the raccoon was aggressive, but Baird thought she was more scared than anything. She sat with the raccoon in the enclosure.
“I’d been going through some stuff in my personal life,” Baird said, “and I was kind of having a sad day, so I went out there, and I sat by her and she came right up to me. And it was interesting because she hadn’t come up to anyone yet, and she came up and sniffed me, and put her little hands in my hand.”
When the vet treated her, she recommended keeping the raccoon indoors until her sores healed. Baird named the raccoon Isis after an Egyptian goddess.
“I just saw a complete 180-degree flip in her personality the minute she was exposed to some kindness,” Baird said. “All it took was a couple scratches on the head and she completely attached herself to me.”
Because Isis was confined her whole life, she was starved for affection. She followed Baird everywhere and just wanted to cuddle. Isis had to learn how to be a raccoon and the simplest of tasks were a challenge, but Isis was eager to learn. She would climb everything in the house and dig through Baird’s pockets to look for keys. She even befriended another raccoon at the sanctuary.
Baird said of all the raccoons she has ever worked with, Isis is an anomaly.
“It’s pretty amazing to see her cuddling and giving kisses and being sweet, but that is not normal, not natural, and it’s really not that good,” Baird said. “If she hadn’t been in an abusive captive situation, then she’d be out in the wild, and that’s what we would really want for her – it’s just not going to be a possibility because of what she’s been through.”
Isis will eventually live in an outdoor enclosure with other raccoons, but for now, she gets all the cuddles she wants.
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