Little Hands was just a few weeks old when he was found all alone on the side of the road. It was early June, and all the wildlife rescues and rehabilitators in the area were already at capacity.
“When you ask what you should do with [an orphaned raccoon], they say, ‘Leave it alone and let nature take its course,’ or ‘You can take it to a vet and they will have to euthanize it,’” Nikki Robinson, who works in wildlife rehabilitation, told The Dodo. “That broke my heart. I couldn’t let that happen!”
While Robinson was working full-time, her mom, Linda, was semi-retired and could bottle-feed a baby up to five times a day. So after Robinson made it clear that grandchildren were not on the horizon, Linda, reluctantly, became Little Hands’ mom.
“The first time she bottle-fed him and he looked up at her, she just kind of melted,” Robinson said. “She treated him very sweetly early on because they like to be touched a lot. So she created a bond with him, even knowing he’d go back to the wild at some point.”
Little Hands grew up strong, and by the end of the summer, was ready to strike out on his own.
“They get a soft release and go out on her property and live under the deck for a bit, and she’ll leave food out until they wander off and find their own way,” Robinson said. “But Little Hands remained friendly with the whole family and he was very kind and sweet with us.”
“[My mom] has a porch swing where she sits outside, and he would come up and literally crawl onto the swing and sit beside her and just want his butt and chin scratched,” Robinson said. “He wanted his snuggles, then he’d have his food and wander off.”
For three years, Little Hands has lived in the wild independently — but continues to return to the house where he was raised just to snuggle with his mom.
Since Little Hands left the house, Linda has taken in numerous orphaned and abandoned raccoon babies who have nowhere else to go.
And each year, the raccoons she releases into the wild continue coming back for occasional visits.
“Every day, she sits outside and waits, and even when they’re grown up, they’ll visit her and she just lights up and she just loves it,” Robinson said. “They love her, too — she’s just Mom.”
Because of Linda, the little raccoons are able to live out their lives in the wild, but just like her human children, they know they can always come home to Mom for a snack and a hug.
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