The search has been called off for a missing 50-pound pet Northern Raccoon that escaped while its out-of-state owner was in Norman for work in November.
Owner George Simmons, an arborist from Pocatello, Idaho, said Coon, or Coonsie, has found and established her own raccoon family months after she went missing Nov. 6 from the area of Main Street and I-35.
The decision to stop the search was made Monday after volunteers had watched for Coonsie since late March at a vacant house that was being remodeled by the home owner. The owner helped remove and release three babies from the house in under a week, and noticed about six raccoons total in the house. However, Coonsie was never caught.
Norman resident Kristina Speaks, a former veterinarian technician who helped lead the search, said the decision to call off the search was mutual between her and Simmons, and heartbreaking for both of them.
“I think we will always continue to have an eye out. Leaving it unfinished will be a hard thing to swallow,” she said.
Speaks said volunteers observed Coonsie at the house for about three weeks with various cameras, and staked out the house using night-vision binoculars.
After searching and trying to catch Coonsie for six months, Simmons said he wasn’t surprised that Coonsie had found a family and had babies of her own in a west Norman neighborhood.
“We’re going to quit chasing her,” he said, adding that Coonsie might decide to come home to him at a later date. “I still think we’ll get her back. We just have to wait for her to show up somewhere. We know the neighborhood she’s in.”
Simmons said he was contracted with New Season Landscaping to help cut trees following ice storms that hit Norman in late October. He brought his wife, Anna, and two female pet Northern Raccoons, Coonsie and Lucy, with him.
Coonsie went missing after she followed him outside to his vehicle and got spooked when a couple had a fight near his truck. He and his family then began searching for her, and were joined by Speaks, other residents and the Norman Fire Department.
Speaks said search efforts included physical searches, placing humane traps and using infrared and wildlife game cameras. The search included all of Norman, Oklahoma City and beyond, including possible sightings in Noble and Nowhere in Oklahoma and Missouri.
Speaks said she has a group of about 10 group administrators who helped her, as well as dozens of search volunteers at night.
“I had volunteers reaching out to me daily. I never had a day where I had absolutely no one to help,” she said.
Throughout the search, Simmons said he rescued a bunch of raccoons that were called in as possible Coonsie sightings and released them back into the wild, or took them to the WildCare Foundation in Noble.
Simmons said he was in Oklahoma for the first three months after Coonsie went missing, but had to return home to his business in Idaho. However, he made four or five trips back to Norman for three to five days at a time, staying at a Norman motel.
“My heart is heavy. I feel like I failed George. I feel like I failed many people. That’s something I will deal with on my own and learn from it,” Speaks said about the end of the search. “In the meantime, I will continue to shine love on George and Norman.”
Simmons, who has a son in Noble and a son in Mustang, said he rescued both of his pet raccoons in Idaho when they were young. He has had Coonsie for about eight years and Lucy for one.
He found Coonsie and six siblings after their mom was trapped and they were left for dead. He released the six siblings back into the wild and tried releasing Coonsie, but she had become embedded in the family. Now, both pet raccoons are microchipped, fully vaccinated and registered with the state of Idaho.
Simmons said his other raccoon, Lucy, has changed behaviorally. She doesn’t like to go with him in truck, doesn’t play like she used to and doesn’t sleep with him anymore.
Simmons said the volunteers did an amazing job, and he was overwhelmed by all the help.
“The people were amazing, the way everybody pulled together. I couldn’t believe how they pulled together, the way things are going in this world. Everybody put their differences aside and came together to help,” he said, noting that thousands of hours of work went into the efforts to find Coonsie.
Speaks said the community should be proud for how Coonsie’s search was treated.
“This whole experience was filled with nothing but love, positive thoughts, many prayers and very minimal drama, and for that we are so proud and thankful,” she said.
Speaks said if Norman residents spot any raccoons they need help with, they should call WildCare at 872-9338 or Norman Animal Welfare at 292-9736 for advice. She is also working on getting a professional trappers license so she can help residents humanely remove raccoons from properties. Anyone seeking her help can reach her at 314-4157.
“They are such wonderful animals with big hearts,” she said.