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Introducing Ringo the raccoon!! Get to know him in his debut video. Why did he come to Animal Wonders? What is his personality? How are we giving him a good life?

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Hi everyone!

Welcome back to Animal Wonders.  I’m Jessi, and this is Ringo the raccoon.  Ringo is new to the Animal Wonders crew and it's been so much fun getting to know him that I wanted to introduce him to you so you could get to know him too! [CHEERY INTRO MUSIC]. Ringo is around 6-7 months old.

We’re not sure his exact age since we don’t have a full history on him. What we do know is that he was orphaned as an infant and received immediate care from a rehabber to keep him alive and well.  During this time he grew very fond of his caregivers and became quite imprinted on humans.  Which meant... [LAUGHS] ...that it was in his best interest to be placed in a facility... ...that would give him plenty of attention and hands on interaction. Right now Ringo’s favorite things are to explore and forage for food.

These are natural behaviors that wild raccoons would be doing every day, and it’s something that I love to see him doing. Since raccoons are so food motivated and curious,  they hone foraging skills at a young age.  Now, many animals use their sense of smell as their main sense for foraging,  and raccoons definitely use smell to find their food, but they also use their sense of touch just as much.  So their nose brings them to the  food, but their hands do the rest.  I love seeing Ringo exhibiting  such an iconic raccoon behavior.  Ringo got really thirsty so he is on a  water break now, but back to it!  Raccoons have a whole section of their brain  devoted to their extreme sense of touch,   and it’s one of my absolute favorite things to see a raccoon look away from a desired object and fully immerse themselves in the feel of it. As a human, who primarily uses my sense of sight to investigate an object, it’s always really interesting to see an animal experiencing something so differently.

So, Ringo is quite new to Animal Wonders, but I’ve been spending a lot of time with him to make sure he's settled in.  He’s doing amazing, and I’m actually  surprised with how gentle he is.  Most young raccoons can be quite feisty  and use their teeth frequently in play.  However, Ringo enjoys hanging out and just  chilling a lot more than rough and tumble play.  Raccoons are super cute, and I know a lot of  people think having one as a pet sounds appealing.  But the reality is often a lot different  than what we imagine it will be.  Ringo hasn’t gone through maturity yet, and over the next year as he matures into an adult, he’s going to go through some changes in behavior. He is not a pet, and I don’t expect him to be like a pet. He is a wild animal and I expect him  to exhibit many normal and natural wild behaviors, and we’re prepared to meet his  changing needs as they come.  So, while I’ve gotten to know him  really well over the last few weeks   and we’ve built a good foundation in our trust  bond, he’s still learning a lot of new things.  The most important thing I need to  be working on with him right now   is basic training behaviors like targeting,  recall, wearing and walking on a harness,   being calm in a crate, and accepting touch.

Our primary goal with Ringo is to make sure he’s happy and healthy, but also that he will be comfortable being an ambassador for his species. This means he’ll travel to schools and other community events to help people  form a connection with raccoons and learn about their natural behaviors. The goal is to create a space to encourage empathy and respect so people can successfully live alongside the intelligent and highly dexterous raccoon.

So, our training goals included having Ringo accept and respond well to a harness and leash. This is a common thing for dogs and cats, but harness training a raccoon has its own set of challenges. Ringo was comfortable with the idea of having a harness around his body when he came to us, so that was really nice.

Unfortunately the harness he came with wasn’t the proper fit, so he also learned exactly how to slip out of it!  Fortunately, I was one step ahead of him and prepared with a harness that was well fit behind his elbows. So, our first walk together was interesting because as soon as he got on the ground, he tried to slip his elbows out of his harness and found that he couldn’t. At first, Ringo was completely absorbed with trying to get out of his harness, and it was touch and go to get him refocused.  And this is where target training comes in!

I didn’t want Ringo to focus on getting out of his harness. The whole point was to get him comfortable wearing a harness so he could enjoy being out and about in a safe way. If a puppy was struggling with pulling out of their collar, you might just pick them up, but you can’t do that with raccoons.  Trying to touch them when they’re in any kind of  stressful situation usually results in a bite.  So getting Ringo's focus away from the harness onto a target stick and desired treats was essential in this moment, and I knew it would likely be one of the big defining moments of our future relationship.

After about a minute of simultaneously repositioning the leash to prevent a struggle and encouraging him to target,  . Ringo finally figured out that targeting for treats was super rewarding, and he completely forgot about trying to slip his harness. As you can see, Ringo is now happily wearing his harness and enjoying his time outside.

He’s also so good with being touched. I want to make sure that he stays comfortable with being handled and touched all over so future medical care is completely stress free. So continually touching his tail, feet, ears, eyes, nose, and mouth is part of his everyday experience.  That way it’s not only done when he’s getting an exam or when something's wrong.  I’m just really happy with Ringo, and I’m looking forward to getting to the point where we can take him to public presentations.

Another part of his training that he does need more work is him traveling in a crate. He goes in just fine, but he hasn’t gotten the "being calm" part down yet. I’m not worried, though.

We have plenty of time to work on that!  So every day we’re continuing to get him ready for public presentations, and during this process it’s been so much fun getting to know him. I’m also happy to share that Ringo has already received some love from some of you. We put up a few items we needed for him on our wishlist, and without even knowing who it was going to, you sent them!  So thank you to those who got Ringo  his cozy house and foraging toys.  We’re also rotating through all the blankets that have been donated over the last few months so he can feel cozy or play in them.

I’ll put some more items up on the wishlist if you’d like to help make sure Ringo continues to thrive. It’s quite a big task making sure he doesn’t get bored, so there’s a big variety of toys to keep him busy.  I love seeing him using his senses and smarts to figure out a problem, just like raccoons do in the wild. I think that would be really fun to share.

Seeing how he interacts with different toys and puzzle feeders? Maybe that will be a future episode! So if you’d like to send Ringo some toys and supplies, the link to our wishlist is in the description below.

I’m so happy to introduce you to Ringo, and I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting him and getting to know a bit about him!  If you’d like to continue learning about animals, what makes each of them awesome,   and how we’re providing care to over 100 rescued  wild and exotic animals at Animal Wonders, be sure to subscribe and I will see you next week! Bye!  [BOLD OUTRO MUSIC].