Aug 17, 2014

Raccoon rescued from metal drain cover

By Rebecca Dmytryk

For transport, the raccoon was placed in an open pet carrier with the metal plate securely tied to a wooden frame.

This morning, we were contacted by Officer Montes with the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter - he had a difficult rescue at hand. 

An adult raccoon had managed to get its head stuck in a metal drain cover. The sheet of diamond steel was about 3' long and maybe 2 1/2' wide and 3/8" thick. 

Evidently, the raccoon had tried to come up through one of the holes cut out of the steel plate. 

Residents woke to find the cover upturned and the raccoon struggling to free itself. They immediately called for help.

On scene, Officer Montes used soapy water to try and ease the animal's head back out of the hole, with no luck. 

If the animal was going to be saved, the metal would have to be cut. 

The raccoon was carefully loaded into the animal control truck and transported to the shelter where its fate would be decided.

Knowing WES specializes in difficult wildlife rescues, Officer Montes reached out to us for help.

Duane and I happened to be close by, headed for breakfast. We pulled off the freeway to hit the Home Depot for a few tools, and arrived at the shelter in less than 30 minutes. 

The animal had been placed in a quiet exam room, on the floor, with various items keeping the metal plate from crushing it. 

The raccoon appeared fairly calm - tired, but otherwise in excellent physical condition. The abrasions around its neck were superficial - if we could get if free from the metal plate, it could be released come nightfall. But, it needed to be sedated for the extraction. 

To date, we have found no veterinarians in the Santa Cruz area, willing to treat adult wild mammals like raccoons and bobcats. Because of this, salvageable animals face euthanasia.


It was Sunday. Highway 17 was jammed with beach goers. We would have to transport the animal over the hill to meet WES' field veterinarian, Dr. Chad Alves.

We placed the body of the raccoon in the bottom half of a pet carrier and secured the metal plate to a wooden frame so it wouldn't slide during transport.

Fifty minutes later, Duane made the first cut into the metal, using a grinder. Wet pillowcases shielded the raccoon from any sparks, and water was used to keep the metal wet and cool. (Don't miss the awesome video, below.)

It took just over thirty minutes and nearly every bit of battery power to cut through the thick steel plate.

Once the animal was free, Dr. Alves performed an examination and treated its wounds. As he was finishing the exam, the raccoon was starting to come around. 

The raccoon was placed inside a pet carrier and provided grapes, watermelon and a bowl of water. By nightfall, it should be ready to be released.

Throughout the day, the animal snacked on fruit and napped off the sedative.

At dusk, we transported the animal back home. We walked the carrier to a wooded hillside and placed it down facing a culvert where we were told it frequents. Duane opened the cage door... 

I have never seen a raccoon gallop so fast! Slappity-slappity-slappity-slappity, its leather soles of its feet hit the pavement as it shot towards the trees, banking right at the culvert and it was gone from sight.


Wildlife Emergency Services is a small, all-volunteer program - we have no paid staff, no salaried employees. We rely on contributions to cover fuel, equipment, supplies and insurance. Please, help ensure our ability to continue providing our valuable services by making a contribution. Thank you so much!

Make checks payable to W.E.S. PO Box 65 Moss Landing, CA 95039

Check out the rescue video:


Anonymous said...

Is there an award for a totally awesome rescue, there should be. This was wonderful. Thank you WES and Dr. Chad for caring. Hope you find a local vet willing to help in Santa Cruz, thought NAR worked with one? Norma Campbell, Injured & Orphaned Wildlife

Rebecca Dmytryk said...

Hey Norma - RE: local veterinarian. According to NAR, last we spoke, none of the vets they use are willing to treat adult mammals, so, it comes down to them being euthanized or us driving them over the hill (and back). I hope the word spreads and we get a local vet who wants to help. We can teach them, they just have to be willing - and able to volunteer their time.

Anonymous said...

It's really a shame a local vet for wildlife cannot be found. In Thousand Oaks, the Conejo Valley Veterinary Clinic treats all wild animals free. They work with local rehabbers, but will also treat animals found by residents.

Lindsay said...

My mom always told me "if you got yourself in there, you can get yourself out!" Boy! She was wrong!!