• Share to Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Email
    • Print

'Grate Escape' Saves a Life: Cape Wildlife Center Staff and Others Free Raccoon from Storm Grate

Cape Wildlife Center staff and others free raccoon from storm grate

All Animals magazine, November/December 2015

by Cathy Vincenti

It must have seemed like a good idea initially.

Most likely tempted by the scent of discarded food washed into a highway storm drain, a young raccoon squeezed her head through an opening in a roadside grate—and got stuck.

Department of Natural Resources officers were unable to extricate her, so they brought the frightened raccoon, along with the grate weighing hundreds of pounds, to Cape Wildlife Center on Cape Cod in Barnstable, Massachusetts.
The center’s medical team sedated the raccoon and monitored her vital signs while multiple attempts were made to free her.

“She had been in the grate overnight and her frantic attempts to escape had caused swelling, making removal difficult,” says the center director Deborah Millman. Since it looked like the grate would have to be cut, the Barnstable Fire Department was called. But it was decided that using power tools was too risky. Instead, a firefighter created a shoehorn-type device crafted out of a plastic bottle.

“Working together, our vet, DNR and the fire department were able to maneuver the grate and free the raccoon,” says Millman.

The raccoon was dehydrated and had severe bruising and other injuries from trying to free herself. She would remain at the center until she was fully recovered and old enough to be released.

While the raccoon may have gotten a harsh lesson about the laws of physics, Millman says humans need to learn from the experience, too. 

“Most people know not to carelessly discard glass, paper and other trash but not everyone realizes improperly disposing of food can be equally treacherous to animals,” says Millman. “The lure of the food may entice a hungry animal to enter 
a roadway, which can ultimately prove fatal. Unfinished food, like the packaging it came in, belongs in tightly covered trash cans.”

Update: The raccoon recovered fully and was released from the CWC on October 7. Watch her return to the wild below.