After the April 27 tornado swept down Ashland Terrace, Red Bank's Ted and Judy Bratcher found three baby raccoons peaking out of a hollowed out tree in their front yard. The storm leveled 21 trees in the yard, but left plenty standing for the raccoons to take shelter in.
"It looked like a war zone, but we gained baby raccoons," said Judy Bratcher. "When we saw the baby raccoons, we wanted to take care of them."
She said the mother raccoon was hit by a car on Thrushwood Drive, leaving the three to fend for themselves.
After the Bratchers nursed the raccoons with milk, they migrated from the front to the back yard. Every morning Ted Bratcher mixes Ol'Roy canned dog food and dry cat food in a frying pan and takes it to them.
"I call them the three stooges," he said, stepping back to allow them room to eat.
After placing food under trees, it takes less than a minute for the raccoons to come running. One raccoon sits in the middle of the pan as the other two scoop food out of the sides. All three eat out of their hands, shoveling it in while looking curiously around.
"For them not to have a mother, they have adapted well by climbing trees," said Judy Bratcher, looking at them through her back porch. "The raccoons drink water out of the birdbaths. We want them to be natural, so we don't touch them."
She said she contacted the Chattanooga Zoo and other wildlife agencies in hopes of finding the raccoons a safe environment to relocate to, but had no luck. She said she will continue letting the raccoons live in nature and has no plans to domesticate them.
Judy Bratcher said this is not the first time she has cared for animals in need. She found her cat 12 years ago in a drain pipe.
The raccoons aren't the only wildlife that can be seen in the Bratchers' yard. In the past, they have spotted birds, rabbits, deer, groundhogs, a fox with babies and a coyote too, they said.
"I've lived here for 25 years and Ted has lived here his whole life," said Judy Bratcher. "It's like living on a wildlife preserve."
Aside from the raccoons, they solely feed their cat and the birds as they do not want to encourage dangerous wildlife to stay, they said.