According to The New York Times, this past month 72 different animal rehabilitation groups, and volunteers heard from Ray Metzler, assistant chief of wildlife for the Alabama’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and what they heard made them furious. The department was telling them to stop rescuing, nurturing and releasing raccoons. They recommended that they be shot to death, or euthanized by the local vet. According to the state this radical move would help prevent rabies and keep the food chain in balance. He went on to say:
“People need to learn to let nature take its course.”
Also on the “do not rescue” list were feral pigs, coyotes, bats and foxes — animals that do not often end up in the care of the volunteers. Topping that list of course were the embattled raccoons.
Alabama isn’t known for it’s animal friendly practices, and the unfortunate raccoon was treated less than friendly by the state’s coon hunters. A noteworthy, and particularly cruel practice is called “coon on a log” a permitted activity that encourages hunters to release coon dogs into the water to attempt to knock raccoons, tied to a floating log, into the water, where the helpless animal will drown or be killed by the dog.
The fact is raccoons are smart, family devoted creatures that, when young, are cuddly as kittens but when they become teenagers, not so much and not so different from us people. It’s at this point they are usually released into the wild, something we can’t do with our human teenagers.
John Russ, an Alabama rehabber, says the new restrictions stem from a long standing conflict between members of one rehabilitation group and local wildlife officials. They also believe an inherent anti-raccoon bias is at play. “These guys, they have some issue with raccoons,” said Russ, “They always have.”
The rehabber groups have reached out to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Ellen DeGeneres, and Bob Barker, both animal rights activists. Two petitions, with at least 28,000 signatures, are being prepared for Alabama’s Governor Robert Bentley.
A hunter-first mentality, say the rehabbers, led to the state’s suggestion that raccoons, along with possums and skunks, which are also on the list, be euthanized or just left to fend for themselves.