The cries of a baby raccoon could be heard echoing from a pipe in a Saanich neighbourhood on Friday, July 10 and Mike Gibson, an animal control officer with Saanich Police Department, swooped in to save the day.
The young raccoon had gotten stuck in a vertical drainage pipe in the 3200-block of Quadra Street, Gibson explained, adding that he was able to locate the baby animal by its cries.
Gibson, who’s worked in law enforcement for 44 years, peered down a six inch wide pipe and there, 10 feet down, sat the upset baby raccoon.
The mother had been seen wandering in the area near the pipe but she couldn’t reach her baby and it couldn’t climb out on its own because the plastic walls were too slick, Gibson explained. Fearing that the baby would starve to death at the bottom of the pipe, he got to work.
The rescue was slow as the little animal was stuck snugly so getting anything around its body to lift it out was a challenge.
“Its cries were loud, pitiful and heartbreaking. I was determined not to leave until I got the little guy out of there,” Gibson said.
After trying “pretty much every tool in the animal control arsenal, without success,” Gibson decided to try using a catch pole – an aluminum rod with a wire at the end – to snare and then lift the baby out.
He had to extend his entire arm and shoulder into the pipe and hold the catch pole with his fingertips just to reach the little raccoon.
“It was difficult, as I could not reach down into the pipe and simultaneously see down there, as it was totally dark,” he said. “In the end, I held a flashlight in my teeth to catch glimpses of what I was doing.”
At first, things were looking up for the young raccoon – the baby grabbed onto the catch pole wire and held on long enough for Gibson to pull him to within two feet of the top. However, the little animal got “jammed,” let go of the wire and fell back down to the bottom.
Finally, after a few failed attempts, Gibson was able to get the catch pole wire around the raccoon’s belly and tightened it just enough to lift him out.
“It sure felt good” to pull the baby to freedom, he said.
Gibson released the little raccoon into the underbrush, hoping its cries would draw the mom back, but she never came. Not one to give up on a critter, Gibson recaptured the baby in a net and set off to search for the mother.
“After half an hour or so carrying him around in the net, she didn’t respond to his calls and I decided she had given up and was gone,” he said.
Gibson took the baby raccoon to a nearby veterinary office to be assessed and prepared for a trip to the BC SPCA Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre, also known as Wild ARC.