CORNWALL, Ontario – Ron Graham, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cornwall and District, is often recognized for his philanthropy and involvement in our community.
Some might not know that he also cares for an entirely different community, one of raccoons.
When Graham was a teenager, he started caring for a baby racoon that had lost its mother. He has been caring for the creatures ever since.
“When babies are abandoned, or (their) mothers are hit by cars, we raise the babies and reintroduce them in the wild,” said Graham.
Graham and his wife live in a wooded area in Apple Hill. They have cared for about 15 raccoons over the years. He said that they have about eight regular raccoons who come to visit frequently.
“We are pretty isolated,” said Graham. “They don’t bother the neighbours or anyone else, they just come in through the forest.”
Like any other member of the family, the raccoons have names, different temperaments and different features. Graham said he can easily distinguish who is who.
“They’re a lot more fun than a cat,” he said. “The only hard part is when they leave for the winter (to hibernate).”
Graham explained that as his raccoons grow up they become more independent but they will still return to say hello. Last year, Graham raised a mother who returned with four babies, showing her appreciation and trust of her first family.
“People love to come over and visit,” said Graham.
If anyone were to drop by, they might catch Graham lounging in a pool floaty with a raccoon, or riding a bicycle or an ATV with a raccoon.
“I had one that was about a year old, we would drive around town on our motorcycle,” he said. “We try to take them everywhere we can.”
Graham and his wife get a lot of calls concerning abandoned baby raccoons now. The partners are licensed trappers, so they often help others with live trapping and relocating the animals.
Although Graham said about four or five of his friends in the area also care for raccoons, many call him the Raccoon Whisperer, possibly because he doesn’t fail to pamper his pets. He also rescues and cares for squirrels, ducks and rabbits.
“I’ll roll them around. They like to get their feet rubbed and they get brushed. They’re the most beautiful racoons in the whole forest,” he said with a laugh.