College students have some new furry friends after a group of raccoons moved in

A group of raccoons have their own purpose built pad after moving to East Durham College.

By Sue Kirby
Tuesday, 09 April, 2019, 10:37
Sean McQuaid, left, and Jim Bates of Dere Street Homes with two of the new residents at East Durham College.

The quartet of raccoons, Itsy, Bitsy, Tonto and Ranger, were in dire need of new digs after their animal sanctuary sadly had to close.

Along with a pair of raccoon dogs, which although look similar are different species, the animals are settling into their new enclosure at the college's Houghall Campus.

The cute creatures are making themselves at home at the college.

Dere Street Homes and Deerness Fencing and Landscaping Ltd, stepped in to help by donating all the materials needed and designing and installing the enclosure from scratch.

East Durham College’s Houghall campus, which offers several animal care courses in a multi-million pound, purpose-built animal care centre, jumped at the chance to rehome these amazing creatures.

Lecturer Craig Sproat said: "It was a fantastic opportunity for the college to rehome these raccoons.

"Not only do we help some animals in need, but this further expands the experience of our students, by allowing them to care for and interact with unusual animals here at the college, just like these raccoons and raccoon dogs.”

A partnership was formed after a member of staff contacted Dere Street Homes asking if any materials could be donated.

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Jim Bates, Managing Director of Deerness Fencing and Landscaping, said: "We saw this as a fantastic opportunity for East Durham College students to get involved with the project, so once the design was agreed upon, we marked out the enclosure imprint on-site and were able to task the students with supervised excavating and clearing of the topsoil in preparation for the team from Deerness to begin installing the enclosure.”

Lindsay Haggis, Curriculum Manager of Land-Based Studies, said: "From all of us at Houghall – and from the raccoons – we’d like to thank the team at Dere Street Homes and Deerness Fencing and Landscaping Ltd for the fantastic new enclosures.

"It’s great to see the raccoons and raccoon dogs taking so well to life at Houghall – it can be stressful for any animal to move home, but they’ve really settled in and their huge enclosures give them plenty of space to exercise too."

The animals can now be seen regularly out of their enclosure interacting with students and staff at feeding time and are more than happy to clamber up on somebody if they think there is a peanut on offer.

Lindsayn said: "The raccoon dogs, while still nervous as is their temperament, are gradually becoming more confident and emerging from their

enclosure more regularly."

Jim said: "I was thrilled to meet and see the raccoons in their new home, and it’s obvious that the enclosures have certainly lived up to expectations.

"It was a great project to be involved in and something very unusual to be able to help with."