When this infant raccoon was brought into Wild Things Sanctuary here in Ithaca, NY, the rehabilitator did not know if he would survive. Only a few weeks old, one ear caked with blood, he had likely fallen from a nest cavity and been abandoned by the mother.
Getting this little guy to drink from a bottle was going to be a real challenge. Usually the mother will lie on her side or back while the young ones nurse. Eventually she will sit up and hold them up to her teats. Victoria found that by gently rubbing the little one’s back she could induce him to purr. Then he would begin to suckle.
In the following recording, you first hear him purr. Then, after a few seconds, the sound of suckling; he is ready to take the nipple in his mouth … and drain the bottle!
DPurring sounds of a captive baby raccoon at Wild Things Sanctuary in Ithaca, New York. Recorded by Bob McGuire on July 5, 2010
In the background you can hear the calls of several other orphan raccoons. They have just finished a lunch of puppy chow, special raccoon formula, grapes, and yogurt, and are roaming around their enclosure before settling down for a nap. Raccoons are not usually weaned until they are about 12 weeks old. At that point they begin to leave the nest cavity to forage on their own. They will eat almost anything, from grubs and worms, crayfish, wild fruit, small animals, to whatever humans throw in a dumpster.
Raccoons are known to make a variety of sounds including growls, hisses, and screams made during encounters with rivals and other animals; playfull whistles; “chitters” and quiet purrs. Both mothers and infants will purr. It seems to be a way of strengthening the bond between them. I cannot help think about the purring of our cats here at home – a sure sign of contentment.