OPP Constable Samantha Bigley was in Gravenhurst on her way to a call when she noticed something in the middle of the road just before 1 p.m. on Wednesday. When she got closer, her typical afternoon on the job turned into a raccoon rescue.
“I didn’t know that it was a raccoon until I got a little closer and that’s when it struck me that maybe it’s not well because it’s daytime and it’s not moving,” Bigley said. “I pulled right up beside it and rolled my window down. It wasn’t scared, it didn’t try to get away and, in fact, I put my car in park and he got underneath my car.”
A woman passing by helped Bigley corral the raccoon into a recycling container. Bigley put newspaper, the rest of her lunch and water in the container before adding a lid and putting the raccoon in the back of her cruiser, hoping to help warm up the shivering animal.
Bigley finished her service call while letting the raccoon warm up in her backseat. Then, she and her dispatcher started calling animal sanctuaries, the OSPCA and anyone else who may be able to help. Chidiac Animal Hospital provided a cat crate and Bigley’s mom attached a hamster water bottle to help keep the raccoon comfortable and safe while they sought out further help.
Once he warmed up, the raccoon started to move around and Bigley wondered if he could be ready for release, but Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary in Minden advised Bigley that the raccoon’s behaviour was abnormal and meant he should be brought somewhere for help. Unable to get ahold of Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary and lacking other options, Bigley decided to drive the raccoon to Rosseau herself.
“Some of these volunteer organizations are so strapped for funding that they’re just not available at the drop of a hat,” Bigley said. “Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary is almost an hour from Gravenhurst, and they just don’t have the resources to be able to come out and pick up animals, so I took a chance ultimately that I would find somebody there.”
It was dark when Bigley arrived at the sanctuary and, upon seeing her headlights, three staff members came out to meet her. She explained what happened to the staff, who took control of the raccoon and thanked her for being kind to animals before bringing him back to one of their barns for care.
“It was clear that he wasn’t well and that I just couldn’t leave him there, so I had to do something,” she said. “There are a lot of people in our community that have really big hearts, so I knew that it was only a matter of time before a member of the public was going to call with concern. . . I figured the best thing to do was to put him in my car and take care of him.”
Bigley plans to call the sanctuary in a few days, hoping to hear good news about the raccoon’s release. She encourages residents to exercise caution if they find an animal in distress and call for help through local animal sanctuaries or by-law enforcement to make sure that animals are helped in a way that’s safe for them as well as their rescuers. She also urges locals to consider making a donation to sanctuaries to help them continue rescuing raccoons along with other members of Muskoka wildlife.