Firefighters are often described as heroes, and rightly so. Not only do they save people from the most terrible of situations, but they also selflessly put their lives on the line while doing so. And if that wasn’t enough, they’ve also been known to help out in non-human emergencies. Such was the case with this little raccoon, who got his head stuck in a drain earlier this year.
It all began with a phone call to the Welland and District Humane Society in the summer of 2016. A member of the public had called the animal welfare organization about a critter stuck in a storm drain in Ontario, Canada. Soon, then, animal control officers from the society were on their way to investigate.
When the rescuers arrived at the location, however, what they found was heart-wrenching. A little raccoon had somehow become wedged in the grate covering a storm drain. Footage of the rescue attempt, moreover, shows the animal trying desperately to wiggle himself free.
Indeed, the raccoon could move his body and four legs, but his fluffy little head was well and truly stuck. So, to begin with, the rescue team tried to loop the creature and pull him free. But when that didn’t work, the rescuers needed a new plan.
“We attempted to use some of the tools that we have within our vehicle to try and remove the sewer grate to get the raccoon out of its predicament that it was in,” explained the society’s animal control officer Ryan Huurman, in a video posted by the society to Facebook. It looked like it was going to be a long day, then, for the team.
And with the hoop technique having already failed, the officers also attempted to use a piece of string. However, they soon discovered that that wasn’t going to work either. After their attempts to prize the grate open also fell flat, then, the rescuers were left with little choice but to call the local fire station.
And moments later, a fire truck arrived on the scene equipped with all the specialist tools needed to break the raccoon from his metal trap. But while the dramatic rescue footage shows the rescuers using heavy equipment, their efforts didn’t help. It turned out that setting the raccoon free was going to be harder than anyone first anticipated.
“The spreaders were used, and chains, and blocks, However, the sewer grate was not coming off,” Huurman explained in the rescue video. “The city of Welland was also present, considering this was a city street.” Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, a rainstorm arrived and threatened everything.
The rescue team were hit by a period of intense downpour, which only made the situation more urgent. As a result, the fire crew began hammering away at the grate in desperation. And as they did so, streams and streams of water flooded into the drain, where the raccoon was still stuck.
Thankfully, then, the team had a lucky break. “Tom James Towing was on route to assist us. However, with some brute force in the pouring rain we managed to remove the sewer drain,” Huurman said. Once the drain was released, moreover, the officers could then gently push the raccoon’s head back through the grate.
Now that the raccoon was free, the animal welfare society bundled him into a carry cage and rushed him to a wildlife rehabilitation expert in the city of Welland. Mary-Catherine Kuruziak established the Niagara Wildlife Haven due to her love of animals. She specializes in native wildlife, including raccoons, and therefore it was decided that she was the best person for the job.
And luckily for this little raccoon, she had good news. “We brought him to Mary-Catherine, here in the city of Welland,” Huurman explained. “She is a certified wildlife rehabilitator. She assessed his [condition] and deemed him suitable for immediate release. So we took him to a field and released him.”
Indeed, incredible footage of the raccoon’s release shows the adorable creature wasting no time in getting back to his normal life. As soon as his cage was opened, moreover, he sprinted off into the long green grass. It seemed that the animal’s brush with city life had been enough to put him off urban exploration forever.
To ensure that the raccoon’s misfortune wouldn’t repeat itself, meanwhile, the Welland and District Humane Society confirmed in the rescue video that “the young raccoon was released away from any storm drains.” Acknowledging the help of the fire teams and all those involved, it added, “Thank you to all who provided or offered assistance.”
Raccoons are native to North America and found up and down the continent. However, in recent years the number of the furry bandits found in cities and towns has increased. And unfortunately it’s not the first time that one of these critters has become stuck in a grate.
On Christmas Day 2015, for example, the Joint Base Cape Cod Firefighters spent their afternoon freeing a raccoon from a drain in Massachusetts. And in August 2016, another raccoon got its head stuck in a grate and had to be freed by Northampton Police. Like the Welland raccoon, though, all these animals were ultimately freed and sustained no physical harm.
And given that the Welland raccoon had such a happy ending, the Welland and District Humane Society decided to share the video of the rescue on its Facebook page. “We’ve removed plenty of sewer grates to rescue trapped animals in our years, but NONE have been as tough as this one,” the society teased in its video caption.
The video has since attracted a lot of attention, having been watched almost 40,000 times and received over 500 reactions. “Wow! That’s so sad to watch, but so heartening with the happy ending, great job everyone,” read one of the many comments on the post.
“Well done guys! A happy ending for the little guy,” wrote another viewer. “Thanks for all you do for the critters. I am sure there is a never-ending supply of animals needing to be rescued!! We all have our part, and it is great to see the community effort to help these critters.”
Indeed, the little raccoon is lucky to have received Welland and District Humane Society’s compassion, as well as the dedication of the local firefighters. Thankfully for him, they were able to save him and deliver him to safety. However, with the number of raccoons getting stuck in drains seemingly on the rise, other creatures may not be so lucky.