Photo collage of raccoon being examined and in a carrier
At left, medical director Antonia Gardner examines the raccoon with the help of rescue and release driver George Hill. Top right, the patient peeks out from a carrier.

The raccoon smelled something tasty at the bottom of the metal tube and stuck his paw in to get at the treat. That’s when the spring snapped, releasing a heavy metal bar that smashed down his paw and held him trapped.

It took some serious muscle to free the raccoon in mid-October. Julie D’Errico, rescue and release coordinator with South Florida Wildlife Center, had to sedate him so her team could safely remove the trap. At the center, medical director Dr. Antonia Gardner examined him. “The skin and the soft tissue were crushed down to the bone, but there were no fractures,” she says.

Every other day, Gardner and her team sedated the raccoon so they could safely clean his paw, promote healing with a therapeutic laser and apply a topical treatment. They gave him pain medications, antibiotics and foot soaks to decrease the swelling. About three weeks after admission, with some additional supportive care, his paw was healed and he was cleared for release. Fish and Wildlife Service officials recommended a safe location, and in mid-November, the raccoon rejoined the wild with a fully healed paw.

This raccoon was lucky to survive. The “dog-proof” style trap that caught him takes advantage of raccoons’ curious, tactile natures, inviting them to reach inside. “If the animal is trapped for too long,” says Gardner, “the foot basically starts to die and the animal starves, or he is attacked by other wildlife.”

According to Gardner, a homeowner claimed he set the trap (which is illegal to use in Florida) to catch an opossum who was eating from a fruit tree. It’s a shortsighted “solution” to conflicts with urban wildlife, she says. “We’re in their home, and they are trying to coexist with us.” Rather than trapping our wild neighbors, Gardner says we should learn to coexist—and maybe share some fruit.

Learn More About Coexisting With Wildlife

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