Popping out of a multicolored blanket is a fuzzy round head with tiny ears and a masked face. Moments later, another head pokes out right next to the first. Soon six heads peek out of the blankets, curiously looking over at a familiar man who carefully cleans and maintains their home.
Gathering courage, the young raccoons slowly leave their warm sleeping places to roam around their cage, climbing around their home on tree branches or stretching their legs as they pace around and playfully chase and pounce on each other.
The caregiver moves from one cage to another, cleaning the cages and refilling the large water bowls. Keith Gunn is the founder of Sonflower Ranch. His love for animals is what drove him to start rehabilitating wildlife.
Before he started rehabilitating animals in Colorado, he was a vet tech for five years in Florida. He originally raised farm animals but gradually started taking in wildlife that needed help.
“Twenty years ago, there were over three hundred rehabbers here in Colorado. Today there is less than sixty. The more people are moving here and the more houses being built, the more human and animal conflicts we are going to have,” Gunn said.
Before Gunn had his license, a local brought him a baby raccoon. Having no way to care for it at the time, he took the raccoon to another rehabilitator in Brighton. The rehabilitator Gunn went to later sponsored him so that he could get his license to operate a rehab center.
“The first year I started, I worked out of a twelve by twelve room here at the house. I took in ninety animals. After that, the second-year I took in around 120, third-year, around 130. This year, 2020, I took in 188 animals,” Gunn said.
Gunn plans to expand the ranch in the future. Recently a pole barn was donated to the ranch. He is planning to renovate the building so that eventually, it can become the rehab center.
“Right now, I do small to medium mammals, from mice to foxes. We mainly do raccoons and squirrels. That is the most calls we get,” Gunn Said.
Sonflower Ranch is a non-profit organization and is voluntary and donation-based. For more information about the wildlife center, visit sonflowerranch.com.