March 16, 2012 at 4:59 PM ET
The folks at Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Rosseau, Ontario, have helped plenty of interesting animals, including a Eurasian Lynx with history as a model kitten, and a porcupine who, after being injured, waddled straight into their crate as if she knew she needed to be rescued. But, a recent phone call from a woman living nearby led to something even more unusual — a small, mysterious, bald creature.
The woman, who lives in Haliburton, Ontario, contacted the sanctuary after finding an animal she couldn’t identify in the corner of her shed. She was concerned for its well being, what with it being bald and Canadian winters being notoriously cold, so she left it some food and took a few pictures to send to the sanctuary’s staff.
After staff at the sanctuary determined that the creature was a bald raccoon, about a year old, the woman used a live trap to capture it, and called Aspen Valley to come pick it up. “It” was named Gizmo shortly thereafter.
Aspen Valley enlisted the help of Dr. Jennifer Garner (yes, that is her real name) of Cottage Country Animal Clinic to determine the root of Gizmo’s hairlessness, which does not appear to be a condition caused by a mischievous human with a safety razor.
“Alopecia, or more simply hair loss, is a common outcome to a number of dermatological conditions. The most common cause for alopecia in wildlife is parasitic disease, such as mange or fungal infection,'' explained Garner via email. "However, Gizmo does not show the classical skin abnormalities associated with these parasitic diseases.”
There are many elements to take into consideration for Gizmo’s bald appearance — it could be due to hormone imbalances or inherited genetic disorders, but first, the clinic will collect skin cell and fur samples for analysis, said Garner, who also mentioned that she’s heard of similar cases of bald raccoons in the United States and Canada.
“With the underlying cause for her alopecia yet to be determined, Gizmo's survivability in the wild is unknown,” Garner said. But everyone remains optimistic since the young raccoon has survived one winter season. And, at least for now, she’s in very good hands at Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.
“Gizmo is doing fine, eating well, and is being kept in a warm and cozy heated room,” a spokesperson for Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary told us in an email.
Kristen Seymour is a Florida-based writer who has rescued many dogs and baby birds, but no bald raccoons. So far.