FALLBROOK — Sixteen abandoned raccoon pups crept cautiously out of their protective wooden crates last week, peering into their new home, the wide-open wilderness owned by the Fallbrook Public Utility District (FPUD). They were released onto FPUD’s 1,300 acres of undeveloped river-bottom land.
The furry little critters had been orphaned after their mothers were hit by cars. They were then rescued by county animal control and turned over to Project Wildlife, a nonprofit volunteer organization in San Diego.
Volunteers carefully nursed and rehabilitated the pups for several months. Their mission: preparing the naturally curious animals for reintroduction into their natural habitat.
FPUD staff assisted as the adolescent raccoons were released in two groups – one group along the north side of the Santa Margarita River and another just west of Sandia Creek.
Two things are key to ensuring a reintroduction is successful: the pups must have minimal contact with humans to retain their native instincts, and the area they are released into must be productive, with year-round water, for them to adapt and thrive.
FPUD’s undeveloped acreage was the perfect fit for the raccoons. The Santa Margarita River runs through the undeveloped land, which is also inhabited by coyotes, beavers, bobcats, fish and an occasional cougar.
The area is the last remaining corridor linking the Santa Ana Mountains to the Palomar Mountains and the remainder of the Cleveland National Forest.
These mountain ranges contain preserved areas formally designated as wilderness. Mountain lions and red tail hawks use this corridor to travel back and forth.
FPUD has worked with Project Wildlife and volunteer groups numerous times to reintroduce rescued wildlife onto its property and preserve the precious wildlife there.
FPUD hopes the completion of the Santa Margarita River water project will permanently preserve this valuable property in its natural state.