A woman found him in a nest destroyed by a land-clearing front-end loader, his littermates dead, and his mother nowhere to be found. So the woman bundled the little guy up and took him home to bottle-feed.


Before long, she realized that 12 ounces of raccoon was too much.


Although Rocket was eating and growing, his relentless inquisitiveness and frenetic energy was more than she could handle. But when she asked area wildlife rescues to take him, they told her he was bonded to people, so they’d put him down.

“You have to raise them a very specific way if you’re going to re-release them,” and it was too late for Rocket, said Deanna Deppen, president of the Shy Wolf Sanctuary in Naples, where the little raccoon finally found a home. “We can use him as an educational animal, take him to events and let people know what to do if they find babies that are abandoned, rather than just taking them home and getting them imprinted, they should call a wildlife organization.”


It’s not the woods where he’d normally live, but at least at Shy Wolf, Rocket will have a forever home with about 50 other critters, Deppen said. Though the nonprofit’s namesake wolves and wolf/dogs are in the majority, other species such as bobcats, foxes and prairie dogs have found their way there too.


“The mission of the sanctuary is to educate people about these animals and the fact that they really belong in the wild,” says founder Nancy Smith. “Once they’re in captivity, they don’t have that kind of environment.”


Not that Rocket appears to be doing much suffering. On a recent morning, after breakfasting on Cheerios soaked in goat milk, he snuggled against Smith’s neck, chirring quietly as she stroked his fluffy tummy. The cuddle lasted only a moment; the next, he was clambering up her shoulder, intent on getting his paws into her hair.


“He’s like a hyperactive child, wanting to touch everything,” Smith said with a laugh. “It’s almost like he sees with his hands.”


Though he’s now living in a cage in Smith’s living room, he’ll soon move to a fenced outdoor habitat with plenty of room for him to climb and explore. It’s not ideal, but at least this way, he’s got a mission in life — one that can benefit his wild-born relatives, Deppen said


“We plan to give this little guy the best life possible and teach people what they should and should not do with baby wildlife,”

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