“I Must Free His Leg”: Raccoon’s Only Hope is Brave Rescuer

Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite. It was originally published on December 2, 2011. Enjoy!

Written byLaurie Raymond of Colorado

Many years ago, I was the shelter directorat PAWS of Lynnwood, Washington. This organization had adog and cat shelter, an advocacy department and a wildlife clinic. We alsorotatednight and holiday rescue coverage for both domestic and wild critters who got into trouble outside of regular business hours.

Onefall evening when I was on call, a woman phoned from a pay phone near a trail head where she and her 9-year-old son had been hiking. They had come upon a raccoon caught in a leghold trap in a creek and didn’t begin to know how to get him out.

This Wasn’t Going to Be Easy

I sighed to myself. Years of dealing with raccoons have given me a healthy respect for them,and I recalled many instances of their formidable fierceness. I asked the woman if she and her sonwould wait for me and lead me back to the animal, and help me release him if I couldn’t get hold of a colleague to assist. They assured me they would wait, and of course I was unable to round up anyone from our staff to go with me. It was almost dark when we all trooped back up the trail to the animal. He was huge! I had brought with me asnare pole, some first aid supplies and a plastic carrier for taking him back to the clinic for treatment, since these traps often cause terrible damage. One look told methis guywould never fit inside that carrier!

I don't have a photo from that night, but he was huge.

I spoke to the raccoon, telling him what I intended and how I was going to release him, and he watched me closely but didn’t give away his thoughts.He seemed calm, but whether from trust or shock I didn’t know. I worked the loop of the snare around his body and under one arm, then gently pulled his upper bodyso that (I hoped) I could work on his trapped hind leg without him being able to get to me, and I showed the woman how tohold the pole stable by bracing it against a snag. I crossed the creek, approaching the raccoon’s hind end, and set to work on the trap. The animal made one attempt to pull away, but then settled stoically.

I Knelt in the Water and Tried to Pry the Trap Open

But the trap was rusty and I wasn’t making progress opening it. I knelt in the water and used my all-purpose tool to pry at the jaws, butthey werenot budging. Suddenly I felt a difference in tension in the animal’s body and looked up. Imagine my surprise when I saw his face just inches from mine! I looked for the woman who was supposed to be holding the pole steady. She was 10 feet away on the other bank, and the pole was lying uselessly in the water. Her son had slipped, she had dropped the pole to help him, and when the animal moved, she backed away and was afraid to approach him again.

I looked at the raccoon and he seemed tounderstand the situation. I’m sure he hadtried with his own hands to free his leg, because he could easily reach it. I guess he realized I was his only hope. Anyway, he made no move to interfere, and I kept at the trap until I finally was able to spring it. The raccoon looked at me, then at his freed leg. Without moving away, he picked it up in his hands and examined it carefully, then put it in the water and moved his foot, and finally his toes.

Then he stood up slowly andjust stood there while Ireleased the snare,walked upstream a couple of feet, and then scuttled up the bank. There he stopped and gave me a long look I interpreted as “Thanks, catch you later” and disappeared into the underbrush. Because I got to watch as he examined and tested his leg, I’m pretty sure he was OK. And I was OK, and I was able to remove the snare (I had been wondering as I worked how I would manage that, and worrying whether I could catch up to him,if he took off still attached to it).

This event was a high pointfrom my years in animal rescue and even now the memory is vivid and sweet.

Related Stories:

Red Hot Raccoons Saved by Sub Shop Superhero

Raccoon Mama Frantic at Window: Couple Saves Her Boarded-Up Babes

Rescue of Baby Raccoons & Their Mama Stuck in Drainpipe (Video)

Primary Photo: Eddie, Secondary Photo: Shchipkova Elena | Dreamstime.com

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Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe3 months ago

Thanks Laura for helping Mr. Raccoon!! I'm sure he knew you were just trying to help him, and he appreciated it.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven5 months ago

thanks for the article.

Angela K.
Angela K.11 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Katie D.
Katie D.about a year ago

Thank you for caring and helping this poor raccoon get free!!!

Stella Gambardella
Stella G.about a year ago

Grazie per la condivisione e complimenti alla persona che ha liberato il procione per il suo sangue freddo.

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harperabout a year ago


Latonya W.
Latonya W.about a year ago

WHOA im speechless and i have tons of respect for u..

Terry Offord
Terry Offordabout a year ago

Animals usually know somehow when they are being helped. Same reason they won't turn back on you when they are being released. They're much more intelligent than most people give them credit for.

Patricia W.
Patricia W.about a year ago

What a great story :) Thank Goodness for people like that mom and her son, and Laurie Raymond. I'd also like to see anyone who uses these torture devices experience them in a very person way.

My hat's off to YOU, Barbara S!

Jane R.
Jane R.about a year ago

How wonderful that you were able to free him. Keep up the good work and God bless you for all you do.