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Raccoon Saved from Deadly Trap

SFWC successfully rehabilitates and releases victim of illegal leg-hold trap

  • The female raccoon was found caught in an illegal, steel-jawed leg-hold trap. Ken Nirenberg/SFWC

  • The raccoon is sedated so that staff can remove the trap from her leg. SFWC

  • Several other young raccoons were also released with the raccoon who was caught in the leg-hold trap. Nick Sonzogni/SFWC

  • The raccoon can be seen exploring her home after a successful release. Nick Sonzogni/SFWC

In January, one of South Florida Wildlife Center’s ambulances responded to a call about a raccoon stuck in a leg-hold trap—a commonly used, but inherently cruel steel-jaw trap used by commercial and recreational fur trappers that is banned in Florida. These devices make it pretty impossible for the animal to escape. Fortunately, this raccoon was found just in time.

When she arrived at the Center, the raccoon had a deep, severe wound near the bottom of her leg. Under general anesthesia, veterinary staff was able to remove the trap and was pleased to find that the area below the trap—although swollen—still retained good blood flow. The raccoon was still strong, and SFWC Veterinarian, Dr. Antonia Gardner, estimates that she was in the trap less than five days. Had she not been discovered, her death would have been painful and slow—brought on by severe infection, painful dehydration, or starvation.

Throughout her initial recovery period, the raccoon underwent several rounds of general sedation—standard procedure with raccoon patients since their species reacts aggressively when placed in a threatening situation—so staff could sufficiently clean and medicate her wounds. When she no longer required antibiotics or pain medications for her wounds, she joined other young raccoon patients in an outdoor enclosure to complete her rehabilitation.

In early April—after 82 days of care at SFWC—the raccoon was returned to the wild with several other young raccoons who were hand-reared at the Center. The presence of traps in the area in which the raccoon was found ruled it out as a viable release site. Therefore, these raccoons were released onto a private property with explicit permission from the property owner.

Florida wildlife officers investigated the use of the illegal leg-hold trap, but were unable to find the person responsible for the incredible suffering of this raccoon—and likely of so many other innocent wildlife or wandering pets. If you see or know of the use of leg-hold traps in your area, please immediately call your state wildlife agency and the local law enforcement agency where the trap was found.

Watch video of the release:

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