eohartman: (Default)
About a month ago, one of my raccoons was filmed for a Georgia Lottery commercial. Here's the commercial, which just started airing last week!

Admittedly, the raccoon looks a little dumb (and there's another one off to the far right, which you can't see very well on the YouTube video), but whatever. It's still neat!
eohartman: (Default)
Today, Dustin and I released 20 raccoons! It was so much fun to watch them explore their new home. :-) Check out the video!

eohartman: (Default)
This is, by far, the craziest (and most dangerous!) encounter I've had with someone who's giving me an animal.

Kaitlyn called me back in April because she had found a baby raccoon. Her first question to me was "Are you going to kill it?" I should've known that this was going to be a crazy one. I told her that I can't make that promise until I look at the animal, but I do not take euthanasia lightly and I try to avoid it if possible. She told me that she didn't trust a lot of people, and even though everyone she called either told her that they would euthanize it or she should call me, she still wasn't sure about my ability to rehab her baby. I told her that she's welcome to come out to my house that weekend and inspect my "facility" if she wanted to. She promised to call me the next day once she figured out her schedule.

Well, she didn't call at all that weekend, and never answered my six phone calls and voicemails over the next two weeks. I assumed that the raccoon had probably died and she just didn't want to tell me, so I stopped trying to reach her.

You can see where this is going.

This morning, her nickname ("Crazy Lady Who Wants to Interview Me," as I entered her into my phonebook) popped up on my phone. See for a snippet of the phone call I had with Crazy Lady today She still had the raccoon and it was getting too big so she needed to find a home for it. She said that she was going to give me the raccoon earlier, but she heard a rumor that I kill raccoons, so she wanted to keep it until it was old enough to survive “at [my] hands."

(Side note: 1. I've never heard this about myself, but I don’t hold much stake in what she tells me. Feel free to let me know if I should be concerned, and 2) If I DO just kill animals, then why wouldn’t I just kill this one, regardless of age?).

She said that the raccoon was getting too big to play with her cats and her children (!!!!!!!), so it was time to find her a new home. We agreed that I would stop by her house to pick the raccoon up.

I get to her house and she gives me the raccoon. I put it in the carrier and hand her my intake form to fill out.

"What is this?"
"The Department of Natural Resources requires us to have this information. You don't have to fill out your exact address - just the city and state is fine. If you don't want to fill it out, that's okay - I already have your information. I just need you to initial and sign these two paragraphs..."
"What do they say?"
"It's legal jargon releasing me of liability if you, your dependents, or your pets get sick because you've all been exposed to the raccoon."
"I'm not going to sign that."

At this point, I had already picked up the raccoon and was headed back to my car.
"That's fine, but I will have to keep the raccoon quarantined for two weeks and if it shows any neurological symptoms in that time period, I'll be submitting it for rabies testing."

I had just gotten into my car, put the raccoon on the seat beside me, and (thank God) locked the doors.
"How do you test for rabies?"
"Decapitation and testing of the brain matter."

And then hell broke loose. She started charging at me so I quickly that I put the truck in drive to get away, but not before she had JUMPED ON THE HOOD OF THE TRUCK AND STARTED POUNDING ON THE WINDSHIELD. I immediately slammed on the brakes and she slid off the truck, grabbing onto the side mirror. I thought she was off, so I tried to go forward again, DRAGGING HER, who was still holding onto the side mirror, in the process. I stopped fairly immediately once I realized that no, she had not, in fact, let go of the truck.

She wasn't hurt, but she screamed for her children (who were inside) to call 911, presumably because I had "stolen her raccoon and I was going to kill it." She had 911 on the phone and I told her "Ma'am, if you get the police to come out here, you will get fined and possibly jail time for keeping a raccoon as a pet. This raccoon will be euthanized and tested in that situation." She hung up the phone.

I explained to her that the raccoon is not showing any neurological symptoms right now and I don't suspect she will, but I have people sign that liability waiver just in case. I said it was to protect me and my family in the event that anything happened, and if she refused to sign it, then I would need to submit the raccoon for testing. She started yelling at me and calling me every name in the book. I opened up my window a crack, offered the paper for her to sign, but she refused and threatened to tell everyone she knew not to contact me if they had wild animals that needed to be saved. Okay, crazy lady.

She also proceeded to tell me that there was a vet's office in Alpharetta who could do a test that wouldn't require euthanizing the animal (while there IS a test like that available, it is NOT FDA approved, it's in the early trial stages, and the test manufacturer warns that it is not very accurate). I explained this to her, and also explained that when it comes down to it, her children's lives are more important than the raccoons. She was calmer now, and had managed to step back some, had stepped far enough back from the truck that I felt comfortable driving off without possibly hitting her, so I drove off.

I managed to keep my cool pretty well while in the situation, but it was extremely scary. When she was on the hood of the truck, there were only two things flashing in my mind: Get Out Of This Situation Now and Don’t Hurt Her. Those two thoughts could not be accomplished at once.

Crazy lady never told me what she named this raccoon, so Dustin came up with a name for her “CBR” (pronounced “Coober”) – Crazy Bitch’s Raccoon. ;-)
eohartman: (Default)
This just a short snippet of some of the wildlife phone calls I've had recently. My thoughts are in Italics.

Woman: Hi, I have a mother raccoon and four babies that are in my yard.
Me: ...*Waiting to hear the problem*
Woman: I need them removed from my yard.
Me: Why?
Woman: I don't want them to live there.
Me: Well, raccoons are wild animals and as such, they live in nature. Your backyard is part of nature.
Woman: I know that's your belief because you take care of them, but I really do not want them in my yard.
Me: ...


My phone rings this morning and the number pops up as "Crazy Lady Who Wants to Interview Me." This was the woman who called me back in April and wanted to come out that weekend and inspect my facilities before she handed over the raccoon that she rescued. She never called back. I left 6 messages for her over the next two weeks, but none were returned.

Crazy Lady: Hi, I need to place a raccoon. Do you still do that?
Me: Yes.
Crazy Lady: I called you a couple of months ago because I had rescued a baby raccoon, and now that it's older, I'm ready to give it to you. Do you remember me?
Me: Yes, I do. You were supposed to call me to let me know when you wanted to come over one weekend. I called and left a lot of messages for you, but you never called back.
Crazy Lady: Yeah, my daughter didn't tell me you had left messages, but then she told me you did, but I wasn't ready to give the raccoon to you yet. She was still so young, but now she's older and I'm afraid she likes humans too much.
Me: Well, I've got plenty of raccoons, so I'm sure she'll wild up after a few weeks with the others.
Crazy Lady: She's been playing with my cat a lot, so I think maybe she thinks she's a cat?
Me: ...
Crazy Lady: I didn't want you to take her when she was really little because I was worried that you'd kill her. I heard through the grapevine that you kill raccoons...
Me: Are you sure that's me and not someone else?
Crazy Lady: Yes.
Me: Okay. *Note: I do not believe, nor care, what this crazy lady thinks of me. I just want the raccoon out of her hands.*
Crazy Lady: I just didn't want to give her to you if you were going to kill her.
Me: But you're going to give her to me now, then?! When we spoke the first time, I gave you my website address. Did you check out my website?
Crazy Lady: Yes, I did. But to be honest, anyone can slap up a website and pretend that they're a professional.
Me: ...
Crazy Lady: And I just don't trust anyone. I know this sounds crazy, but just because you have a website doesn't mean you don't kill them.
Me: Yes, it sounds crazy. That's because it's coming from you, and you are crazy. Okay.
Crazy Lady: So how do you want to do this? Want me to come out to you, or we can meet somewhere?
Me: Hell no I'm not telling you where I live. How about I come to your house? I'm picking up a baby fox in your area this afternoon, so it won't be much trouble for me to swing by after that.
Crazy Lady: Okay. *Gives me her address*
Me: Thanks. I'll call you when I'm headed in your direction! In case she decides not to give me the raccoon, now I've got her address to turn over to DNR!
eohartman: (Default)
Yesterday, my coworker gave me some deli ham that was expiring so I could give it to my animals. I have two red foxes now, a male and a female (the male came in last Sunday). I gave the ham to the male as a treat. At first, he eats some of it. Then he decides to save the rest for later and buries it. It's pretty neat!

The burying starts at 1:05

Foxes are so smart.
eohartman: (Default)
Jackson Pearce, author of As You Wish and Sisters Red, is a good friend of mine. This year, she's taken part in Project for Awesome and featured Tails From The Hart, my wildlife rehab organization!

Not only does this bring awareness to wildlife rehabilitators and what we do, but hopefully some people will donate to TFTH, too. It's awesome to read all the comments from people on her YouTube video. Even cooler? John Green, another author, who started the Project For Awesome event four years ago with his brother, featured Jackson's video in HIS YouTube video! (It's the right top rectangle - click on it and it directs you to our video.) How cool is that?!
eohartman: (Default)
Written by another rehabber:

Love of a Rehabber - The Circle of Life, Reunited with Nature

You came to me young and afraid
It was then that I prayed
Help me with this tiny one
Help him grow up big and strong.
And you grew with every day,
Round and round and round you'd play;
Then stop and look as if to say,
"Oh, mama, aren't I sweet?
May I have a little treat?"

When the day comes that we part,
my heart will pause then seem to stop.
I know how it will be..
you will run, then climb a tree.
This is great and meant and to be...

So why does this tear me up inside
even though I am full of pride?

"If I could talk, here's what I'd say
Thank you for taking me in that day.
For feeding, cleaning and cuddling too..
When I was young and so brand new.
All to prepare for this one awesome day
So I could be free and do as I may."

So where do these tears come from?
This was a job that was well done.

"No need for you to cry too long,
for I am great big, healthy and strong.
Can climb a tree and swim a stream,
From day one this was my drean,
I am so very ready to roam,
please trust I'll find myself a nice home."

Oh, why does this make me ache inside
Now that our goal is satisfied?

"Its okay, your work is done,
now let me go to have my fun!
I'll be free, no need to fret,
Miss me some but don't forget....
When I was a babe you cared for me
Now I have grown to be wild and free!
Reunited with nature, its supposed to be
For the circle of life is now up to me."

He needed a rehabbers helping hand,
All grown up but still my little man
Forever and ever born to be free....
Reunited with nature as it was meant to be.
For the circle of life is what he will see.

Linda J. Sweeney
Wildlife Rehabber
eohartman: (Default)
Oh hey, guess who got interviewed for one of our local newspapers.

I did!

Text for the linkphobic )
eohartman: (Default)
Rubber Ducky, you're the one.
You make bath time lots of fun.
Rubber Ducky, I'm awfully fond of you.


Oct. 3rd, 2010 12:24 pm
eohartman: (Default)
My parents got a new mailbox and were kind enough to donate their old one for use in the raccoon habitat (it was Dad's idea). My husband drilled a couple of holes in the top of the mailbox so it can be cleaned and drained easily and mounted it upside-down from one of the beams in the ceiling of the habitat. The raccoons LOVE it! Surprisingly, it's a huge hit! Each time I go to check on the raccoons (which is about every other day now), there is always at least one raccoon curled up inside the mailbox. Sometimes, there are two cramped in there (I have no idea how this is comfortable).

Here's a video of one of the raccoons checking out their new toy:

At night, it looks like the raccoon is levitating in mid-air.

eohartman: (Default)
As part of the raccoons release criteria, they need to learn how to hunt for, catch, and eat fish. Each week, I purchase feeder fish so they can practice their skillz.

In the video, you'll see a couple of raccoons snip at each other. Chance, the newest raccoon to the group, was a little bit snippy with some of the other guys when they started to encroach on his territory. That's okay, though! One of the other things they need to learn how to do before they get released is stand up for themselves against competition for food. They never compete to the point of hurting one another (I would never allow that!), but the snipping is totally natural and prepares them for when they interact with other animals in the wild.

eohartman: (Default)
No matter how long I've been rehabbing, I don't think I'll ever get used to some of the positions the raccoons sleep in. They contort their bodies around toys. They'll all pile on top of one another. They'll sleep sitting up inside the water bowls. They'll sleep in ways that look so unnatural and uncomfortable to me, I can't possibly imagine why they're doing it. Sometimes I think they're dead. There's been more than one occasion where I've run outside and poked them, or yelled at them just to make sure they're still alive. Because why else would you sleep like this?

Hanging upside down from the hammock.

Click the cut for more pictures and a video! )
eohartman: (Default)
On Saturday, I released three adult raccoons that I had in the outdoor habitat. Dustin and I made the trek up to North Georgia and released them into a large forest where they will have plenty of places to play, eat, swim, and live in the wild. I'm so relieved I was able to release these guys - they had been kept as pets passed their sexual maturity, so they were tamed to human interaction. Over the course of the past few months, I've been hands-off with them and they've realized that I, nor any other human, is supposed to be their friend. They had reached all other goals in my release criteria, so they were ready to go! The release was a complete success!

This release also meant a big change for some of my raccoons at home - the juveniles got to move from the ferret cages on the porch to the BIG habitat outside! My outside habitat is 16' x 12' with an 8' tall ceiling, so it's big enough to house a lot of raccoons until they can be released. Even though I think the adult males would have gotten along with the juveniles, I didn't want such a wide age-gap between the raccoons, so I decided to wait until the males were released before putting the juveniles in the habitat. I did it just in time, too - things were getting a bit crowded in the ferret cage! Even though there was technically enough room for all the raccoons that were in there, they LOVE to pile on top of one another, which made them all look a bit squished.

After the outdoor habitat had been cleaned and sanitized, it was ready for the next batch of raccoons. I picked the oldest of my babies - 13 raccoons ranging from about 14 weeks to 8 weeks old - to put in the habitat. They are SO tiny in the big habitat, but I know they'll grow into it soon! This is the last "move" they'll make until their release. This is where they'll learn to fish, dig for grubs, and other important life skills before they get released into the wild.

Here are two videos of them exploring their new digs. :-)

eohartman: (Default)
I got an e-mail from YouTube this morning:
Your video Raccoons in the hammock! might be eligible for the YouTube Partnership Program, which allows you to make money from playbacks of your video.

Here's how it works: First sign into your YouTube account. Then, review and complete the steps outlined here. If your video is approved, we'll start placing ads next to the video and pay you a share of the revenue as long as you meet the program requirements.

We look forward to adding your video to the YouTube Partnership Program.

Thanks and good luck!

Confused on why that video had so many views, I logged in to YouTube and lo and behold, the video had over 13,200 views. Certainly, someone picked my video and inflated the view count via a program or something, right?

Nope. Apparently, I was featured on dailysquee.com on June 22. Dailysquee is part of the cheezburger network. How cool is that?!
eohartman: (Default)
About a week and a half ago, I had 37 raccoons. And then I managed to get up to 43 raccoons. But I was too busy to take a video of that, so here's a video of 37 raccoons:

eohartman: (Default)
A week ago, I got a phone call from a homeowner, Sam, who had a mother raccoon and her baby kits living in his attic. When I talked to him, a trapper had come and caught the mother, but the babies were still stuck up in the attic. After being without their mom (and thus, without nourishment) for three days, I told him that we were on a race against the clock to get the babies out before they died of dehydration. If he could get the babies out of his attic, I would take them. If he could get the mother back from the trapper (who was keeping her until they figured out what to do), then I would take her, too.

On Thursday, he called me with fantastic news - he had gotten three raccoon kits out of his attic and the trapper had given him the mother. He and his wife, Sharon, were awesome enough to meet me at my office to give me the four raccoons - the babies in one box and the mother in the have-a-heart trap. I was so anxious on the drive home with these guys - I've never taken in a mother and her babies before, let alone reunited a mother with her kits, so I was unsure what to expect. Plus, the mother was SO upset that she could hear her babies in the box next to get, but couldn't get to them. When I got home, I prepared a temporary cage for her outside and then reunited her with the babies. She was upset to be in a cage, but very, very relieved to have her babies with her.

Over the next couple of days, I made sure she had food, water, a litter pan, and food for the babies in case her milk had dried up and she was no longer able to nurse them. I tried to keep my distance as much as possible so I didn't stress her out any more than she already was.

On Sunday, Sam called me up again because he heard more chirping in the attic and found baby #4. We met up and I took the baby home to momma raccoon. As soon as I put baby #4 in the cage with the mother, Sam called again because - you got it - he found baby #5. We met up again and I reunited the mother with this baby, too.

By that point, I could tell that the mother really wanted to get out of the cage. She was anxious about being in there, searching around for a way out. I didn't want to risk her freaking out so much that when she left, she wouldn't take her babies with her. I opened up the cage door for her and added a portable fence to the front of the cage so hopefully the babies wouldn't escape on their own. She scoped out our farm and came back a couple of hours later to collect her babies and take them to her new home.

Here's the video of her grabbing each baby and taking them to the tree hollow where they now live. It's not too far away from our house (I was taking this video outside my bedroom window), so I'm still able to keep an eye on her and feed her until she finds enough food on her own.

eohartman: (Default)
When raccoons are born, they're pretty awkward animals. It's not until they're about a month old that they really start to walk, and even then it's pretty clumsy. In the interest of getting my oldest girl some practice walking, I've been letting her stumble walk around the house. At this age, she's not into exploring yet, so she tries to stay as close to me as possible. This makes for some pretty entertaining moments. :-)

eohartman: (Default)
I lost one of the new raccoons early this morning.

It was bound to happen. He and his sister had been found in the attic SIX DAYS after the mother was captured and released elsewhere. A third baby, Oscar, was found three days after the mother was evicted, and the (human) mother and her daughter managed to feed him kitten milk replacer and get him to a rehabber. After I met up to get Oscar, the woman called me about an hour later saying she had two more for me. I told her I'd meet her at the gas station in 35 minutes. She said she was going to try to give them a bit of water, then bring them to me.

Instead, she gave them cow's milk with a spoon. Giving the liquid with a spoon, an instrument that is WAY too big for the 4 inch long from nose-to-tail animal's mouth is a recipe for disaster. It'll almost always cause aspiration and once that liquid gets into the lungs of an already immuno-compromised animal, it's very hard to reverse the damage.

Believe it or not, cow's milk is one of the WORST things you can give an emaciated, dehydrated animal. Not only is it the wrong chemical makeup of protein, fat, and fiber for every animal except a cow, but it's also a really heavy, strong milk. WAY too strong for an animal that has gone without food for nearly a week. Dehydrated animals need to be pumped full of electrolytes first - dehydration is a much more dire problem than emaciation and if the animal is extremely dehydrated, the digestive system has already shut down. Giving the animal full-strength cow's milk is a terrible idea. For the first 24 hours after I get a dehydrated, emaciated animal, they don't get full-strength formula. I start out giving only electrolytes, then a very, very diluted form of the milk replacer, and then I slowly ramp up the ratio until the animal is getting full-strength formula. Giving an animal any kind of milk when it's on death's doorstep only hastens the death.

If the animal can be brought to a rehabber within a couple of hours of finding it, the best thing is to not feed the animal anything. Not only can their system not handle it, but the risk of aspiration is too great.

I don't know if this little guy would have made it even if she hadn't fed him cow's milk and made him aspirate. He was looking pretty rough already, but his chances would have been greater had she not tried to do the very thing that most people think they SHOULD do - feed the animal. I've started his sister on antibiotics and homeopathic treatment, hoping I can change her fate, but it's not looking good. :-(

Three hours later: I had to euthanize the sister. :-( She had moved into agonal breathing, so it was best just to end her suffering.
eohartman: (Default)
I now have EIGHT baby raccoons.

That's what eight baby raccoons look like when they're happy and awake. Pictures of them tomorrow (hopefully).


eohartman: (Default)

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