ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico wildlife rehabilitation facility is giving a new home to some of the state’s most notorious mammals in hopes of changing people’s perspectives.
“Pepper” the raccoon and “Mesquite” the coyote are the newest animals now calling the New Mexico Wildlife Center home.
While they’re common wild critters that can be found in New Mexico, the Wildlife Center also believes raccoons and coyotes may be some of the most misunderstood and often mislabeled.
“This is a really great opportunity for us to be able to talk about how special the animals, right here in North America, in New Mexico, in our backyards really are,” said Melissa Moore, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Center.
An Española-area facility for the last 35 years, the New Mexico Wildlife Center has traditionally been home for birds, raptors and reptiles. They’ve never housed a raccoon or a coyote before.
“We were fortunate to be able to work with New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to get the right permits to keep these animals here as ambassador animals,” said Moore.
Moore says both Pepper and Mesquite are about two-years-old. Each came from a home where they were being illegally kept as a pet. While both were in good health, Moore says the state had trouble finding homes for the animals.
“It took a lot of conversation and time to decide if we could really care for them,” said Moore. “We’d have to build new enclosures, we provide food for them, so it was really kind of a look at what our resources are and what the benefits would be.”
Moore says volunteers, including an Albuquerque Eagle Scout, helped donate time and materials to build the new enclosures for the raccoon and the coyote. While they’re an unusual fit to be kept on public display as “ambassador animals,” Moore says she hopes people can learn more about them.
“When you see a coyote … they’re just so quick and they’re shy, so they’re hard to pin down and see and to get a really good look at,” said Moore.
Raccoons, on the other hand, Moore says, aren’t afraid to show how resourceful they can be.
“They have the very dexterous hands, they have the high intelligence, the ability to adapt, to climb trees, they’re so fascinating,” said Moore.
The center hopes people can learn a lot more about New Mexico’s common nocturnal neighbors.
“That’s exactly why we want to display them, we want folks to have a chance to actually see them,” said Moore.
Both animals will be up for public viewing Saturday and Sunday at the New Mexico Wildlife Center’s open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The center is located at 19 Wheat Street in Española.