Do you have a totem animal?
Maybe you do, but you’re just not talking about it. Maybe, though, you’d like to come out of the totem closet, and admit that you do. OK, I’ll go first.
In the past couple of years, I’ve been bumping up against this topic – to the point that I feel compelled to speak out. I love the idea of having a personal power animal. I love animal symbolism; and now the symbolism is catching up with me.
Recently, my husband came home with a tiny (and I mean newborn) baby raccoon that a child had found at the park where he works. Oh, my. Raccoons are not favored animals in these parts. They get rabies and distemper and all. And, besides, there are too many of them.
What to do, then, when you find a baby one with no mother to care for it? We knew we needed to find a wildlife rehab person. We’d taken a found baby bunny to a rehab place a few years ago, but that particular lead didn’t work out this time.
Then we learned that the local nature center is not taking raccoons. Hmmm. Are there so many? What exactly is the “nature” of the raccoon situation in our area, I’m wondering. Why couldn’t they take it? The helpline didn’t mention the fact. I had called and left a message after hours. They called and left me a message the next day, urging: No, please don’t bring it in; they are not taking raccoons.
They suggested that I see the Department of Natural Resources [DNR] list online. I did find it. Thankfully, though, before I tried calling someone (hoping they took all small mammals), my husband said that the park personnel had found someone from Friends of Wildlife.
The transfer took place; and it’s my understanding that the little raccoon will be nursed to health and then released back to the wild in a good place. I hope so. I was grateful that someone cared, and had the training and facilities to take care of it. I imagine springtime brings floods of calls such as mine.
Many think of raccoons as a nuisance… even though we LIKE Ranger Rick — longtime beloved icon for the National Wildlife Federation. This venerated raccoon is: the leader of a small group of animals living in Deep Green Wood, and he is the hero of the comic called ‘Ranger Rick’s Adventures.’
The magazine, first published in January 1967, was named after Range Rick. Rick and his friends encounter many problems for wildlife and the environment in their travels around the world, but they always come up with a way to save the day!
There, you see? Rick’s the inspiring animal hero. My kids loved getting the magazine. Maybe that’s why our son always wanted a raccoon, whenever he looked at stuffed animal toys. So in a way, I’d say the raccoon has been his personal mascot.
I got to thinking about it. Paging through a book about animals as spirit guides, I found the raccoon. The traits of this animal amazingly fit: intuitive mechanical ability, resourceful, adaptable, and flexible.
As for me, it said if a raccoon shows up, it could mean I might be facing a challenging situation, or rapidly changing circumstances, and that I need to be more adaptive, flexible and assertive.
True. Definitely, true. It also said that I should be more discerning and trust my intuition; that I should not doubt that I have the resources at hand for my current situation; and that I should indulge my curiosity and be open to exploration. All these, if you think about it, are traits of the raccoon. Perhaps that’s why in our hearts, we connect with the raccoon persona, despite being uneasy about possible disease within the population.
Maybe one of the traits we love about the raccoon is that it can be so adaptive. It wears a mask, for instance. “What kind of mask am I wearing?” I have to ask myself. Do I put on different faces for different occasions and different people? If so, do I discern the appropriate face for the occasion?
I’ve not considered the raccoon to be my power animal. Probably, mine is a cat of some kind. It’s fun to think about it, though. It’s fun to imagine the aspects of animals that seem to mirror our makeup as a person living in the world.
Who would have thought that rescuing a baby raccoon would spark a reflection on totem animals, or why a certain animal might show up in my life?
Reflection also arises: On how we view animals and our environment; the status of our wildlife rehabilitation efforts; our cultural outlook on endangered species, or on so-called nuisance animals. Detailed DNR regulations for hunting, trapping, and relocating raccoons are available online.
I’m grateful that this story has a happy ending and that I’m now a little more tuned in to what is available for animal rescue efforts.
Here’s a link for Friends of Wildlife, should you find yourself in a similar situation. There’s a wonderful Facebook page, as well, citing this mission statement:
Friends of Wildlife is an independent, nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to the emergency and extended care of orphaned or injured Michigan wildlife. Our goal is to rehabilitate these animals in a professional manner that allows them to return to their natural habitat.
I like that. Being returned to its natural habitat seems the compassionate choice. As for totem animals, perhaps I’ll reconsider the curious, clever, creative coon.