Late last year, Rosie Kemp found an unusual bundle had fallen from a tree in her back yard of her home in Nassau, Bahamas.
It was one month-old female raccoon…very weak and with a broken back leg. Rosie expected her mother to show up, but after waiting for a while, she decided to take the baby animal in and care for it herself.
It’s legal to own raccoons in Nassau, where there are no rescue organizations for them. So, to give the tyke her best possible chance for survival, the family took on the task of raising the cub just like one of their own pets. They named her “Pumpkin”, and Rosie and her daughter, Laura Young, fed her every few hours, day and night, while being sure to keep her warm, as her natural mother would.
“Raising her was (and still is) a full-time job,” says Young. “They are so unbelievably intelligent, very aware, and I would say they are even able to express emotions.”
Now Pumpkin lives with Young, her husband, William, and their two rescue dogs, and she appears to be very happy with the arrangement. Her escapades are featured in a Pumpkin Instagram account, where Young and her friends regularly post photos.
“She instantly bonded with us and our two rescue dogs and follows me and our two dogs everywhere we go,” Young said. “She now thinks she is a dog … she is able to play and be rough with them and she respects them when they have had enough.”
And she reportedly isn’t shy about telling the family what she wants. Young recalls being in a room with Pumpkin and the dogs, when Pumpkin decided it was time for her to go out. So she climbed onto a basket by the door and tried to work the knob.
“Raccoons are NOT pets,” Young explained. “They are wild animals, so they are quite moody. Unlike dogs and cats, they are not domesticated. Like a spoiled child, if she doesn’t get her way, she will let you know.”
Of course, raccoons – like all wild creatures – should be in their natural environments whenever possible. But Pumpkin didn’t have that choice, so her family intends to make sure she has everything she needs to have the best possible life in her new surroundings. Se far, she seems to be quite happy with her situation. Young said Pumpkin loves air conditioning and feasting on human treats like sunny-side up eggs and watermelon. And she’s even learned how to use the toilet to relieve herself.
Thanks to Young and her caring family, the year-old Pumpkin has a home and a bright life ahead of her. And most importantly, she’s with people who will do anything to keep her happy – even if by raccoon standards her lifestyle is quite unusual.
“We are very lucky with her and always want and will do what is best for Pumpkin,” Young said. “But for now she is very happy with us and the dogs!”
NOTE: Raccoons do not usually make good pets and are illegal or restricted in much of the United States. Raccoons in the US are major rabies carriers, and if they bite someone will nearly always be put down for rabies testing (which makes human contact dangerous for them). They are very active, curious and destructive animals and do best when left in the wild. If you do find an injured or baby raccoon in the US, contact your local wildlife rescue for advice and assistance.