The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

To Mother

Posted by | May 10, 2017 | Filed under: Observations
Almost dead

When the Wells Reserve at Laudholm’s education director Suzanne Kahn pried open the attic door in her office to investigate some strange noises, she expected to find red squirrels.

Instead, a large raccoon greeted her with a warning growl.

Suzanne shut the door. It was the week of Earth Day and she had day camps, grant proposals, and a small festival to oversee. But the raccoon family in the attic — a mother and four cubs — needed to find a new home.

Suzanne got on the phone. Others might have immediately called an exterminator or animal control officer, but not Suzanne. Suzanne is an animal lover. Over the years, she’s rescued dogs, birds, rabbits, and wasps from peril. She refuses to set mousetraps. She probably even thinks twice about slapping mosquitoes. She is the Wells Reserve’s biophilic conscience, the better angel of our nature.

So Suzanne called the Center for Wildlife, the amazing wildlife rehabilitation facility in Cape Neddick that the Reserve works closely with on education programs. They in turn gave her the number for Jessica Jackson, who runs Safe and Sound Wildlife Rehabilitation in Casco. Jackson is an expert in raccoon rescue and rehabilitation. Her advice: 1) music, 2) bright lights, and 3) ammonia-soaked rags. Ideally deployed at night, the time when raccoons are most active.

Suzanne’s deputy in the education department, Caryn Beiter, undertook the raccoon rousting. On four consecutive evenings, long after the rest of the staff had gone home, Caryn blared country music and shone bright lights into the attic. Each morning, the music and lights were turned off by the Reserve’s caretaker.

It worked. Mama Raccoon moved her cubs out of the crawlspace… all except one. The distressed mother didn’t return to carry it to safety. Suzanne and Caryn could hear the orphan’s heart-rending cries behind the wall. Without food and its siblings for warmth, it would soon die on its own. Safe and Sound’s Brandi Harris rode from Biddeford to the rescue. Within an hour, the little male was freed and on his way to Casco for a bit of R&R and all-you-can-drink goat’s milk.

An orphaned raccoon, left alone in a crawlspace

He’s got a name (Spike), he’s got care, and he’s got a future. Spike will soon be introduced to some other rescued raccoon cubs, and, if all goes well, they’ll be released back into the wild later this year. Like most children nowadays, Spike is on Facebook.

We’ll never know why the blind, helpless, three-week-old Spike was left behind. He may have been the runt of the litter, or too sick to travel. His raccoon mother may have had her fill of ammonia fumes or country tunes. Fortunately for Spike, kind souls from another species stepped in. They say it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a team to rescue a raccoon.

Mothers come in many shapes and sizes, but their efforts are irreplaceable: we are all the products of the maternal drive. Honoring mothers one day a year seems like the very least we can do. They deserve so much more. If we take to heart the lessons mothers teach us about empathy and care and responsibility, the future of humanity and our fellow species should not be imperiled.

Nik Charov is president of Laudholm Trust, the nonprofit partner of the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wells, Maine. His monthly column, “Between Two Worlds,” ventures forth from the intersection of art and science, past and present, moms and dads. More at

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