New York photographer rescues body-surfing raccoon

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(Credit: Dell R. Cullum)

Amagansett, N.Y. — Wildlife photographer Dell R. Cullum was walking on the beach when he came across something he had never seen before — a body-surfing raccoon.

Luckily for Cullum, he had his camera with him and was able to capture several pictures of the critter in the ocean — and then help rescue it.

“First, I thought it was a scoter or sheldrake but as it neared I saw it had no resemblance to waterfowl at all. A seal maybe, but way too small. It finally got close enough where I was able to tell it was a fur-bearing critter, most likely a muskrat,” Cullum wrote on his blog.

“I switched my camera lens from wide angle to telephoto, put it to my eye and was surprised to see it was a raccoon. I immediately began shooting frames of the masked marauder swimming parallel to the shoreline. Every now and then it would turn in and ride a wave closer to shore like it was quite familiar with the ocean and the waves. Sadly, that wasn’t the case at all.”

Cullum said the raccoon was fighting to stay above water and was overcome by a large wave and disappeared.

“I was heartbroken realizing what was going on,” he wrote. “A few seconds later, his head popped up, and he began fighting the current trying to get back to shore.”

Cullum then took off his shoes and socks, rolled up his pant legs, and with a golf ball scoop he keeps in his truck, into the water to try to help the critter. On the first try, Cullum extended the scoop about 20 feet and dropped it. But the raccoon grabbed onto its net, and Cullum dragged the raccoon to the edge of the water.

After the raccoon “coughed up a lung of saltwater,” it was fine.

“A few shakes and twists to shed a soaking coat, a stumble or two to get the gait and off he went . . . not up into the dunes, but along the shoreline. This one is bound to keep me confused and in wonderment,” Cullum wrote.