A veterinarian in southwest Iowa has found a new friend following last week’s destructive derecho that swept across Iowa.

Dr. Alan Farnsworth, of Adair, discovered a tiny, young raccoon several days after the storm that he’s nursing back to health. “She was laying in the driveway, staggering and couldn’t stand up so I stopped and picked her up,” Farnsworth says. “She’d probably been lost from her mother and she was pretty thin and dehydrated.”

After enlisting the help of a DNR wildlife rehabilitator, Farnsworth began feeding the raccoon with kitten milk replacer out of a pet nursing bottle. “She weighed 266 grams which is about eight-and-a-half ounces when I found her and she’s gained about 100 grams this week,” he says. “She’s strong-willed.”

The raccoon, which he named Zorro, is continuing to gain weight and strength. The goal is to eventually release Zorro back into the wild in less than two months. She currently resides in a cage at his veterinary office and is frequently visited by people who bring their animals in for care, or who just want to peek at the guest bandit.

“A raccoon likes mainly the person that takes care of them. They don’t like a lot of other people, but this one’s pretty friendly,” Farnsworth says. “There’s been a lot of young kids coming in with their parents when I vaccinate dogs and cats or they come in to get some medicine for cattle and they all go back and look at it. I’m letting them touch it and then I make them wash their hands.” Iowans who find a young raccoon in the wild are told it’s best to leave it alone, because the mother will often come back for it, but this case was different.

“This one was just in such bad shape and you could tell it hadn’t eaten for two or three days, it wasn’t going to make it if I didn’t do something,” he says. “You pick her up and she just looks at you like a little cat or a puppy and it’s a little, helpless animal.” Because raccoons are social creatures among their own kind, Farnsworth brought Zorro a little stuffed animal she enjoys holding.

Farnsworth, a veterinarian for 43 years, says he’s trying hard not to become attached to her, because he knows she has to leave eventually.

(By Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)