Copper the raccoon has found a forever home at Discovery Wildlife Park after an Albertan tried to turn him into a pet.
Head zoo keeper Serena Bos said the raccoon was becoming aggressive and was morbidly obese when he arrived at the park in February.
“He was very traumatized when he came to us. As far as we’re aware, he spent his entire time in a bedroom, so he didn’t get to experience anything a young raccoon would experience outside,” Bos said.
“He would not be able to survive in the wild.”
As a baby raccoon, he was originally picked up in Ontario and illegally transported west to Alberta and kept for about nine months.
The owner knew it was illegal to possess wildlife, but didn’t care, Bos said.
“All baby animals are cute, and I’m sure many people, if they had the option, would love to have many baby animals. However, it’s not right for the animal.”
Bos said the owner also did not know how to take care of the raccoon, considering it was fed food like marshmallows and was mistakenly believed to be female.
Eventually, the owner contacted Alberta Fish and Wildlife and the raccoon was allowed to be taken to Discovery.
Bos said it has taken many hours to train the timid raccoon and build his confidence. She said he has made great strides, but has yet to recover 100 per cent from his ordeal.
“Raccoon’s actually have the ability to hold knowledge for three years. Even though we have put all the time and effort into making sure he has a positive environment, for three years he will remember his past.”
With a proper diet, Copper is now a healthy 7.6 kilograms and has grown comfortable with Discovery staff, but it is unlikely he will ever be in an enclosure on display for visitors, or housed with the two other racoons at the park.
Bos hoped when people learn Copper’s story they will feel compassion for animals and do the right thing.
“The more we can educate the public, the more people understand wildlife and what to do. It’s very important to leave wildlife to be wildlife.”