By Jaimie Julia Winters
A raccoon that chased a woman and her dog on their morning walk last Thursday was caught and euthanized, said township officials.
“I am glad they caught it,” said Montclair resident Laurie Albanese, who was out with her dog on Thursday, Sept. 6, at around 9 a.m. when they met up with a raccoon that was exhibiting aggressive behavior.
Albanese was walking in the area of of Edgemont Memorial Park when her dog spotted something under a parked car and began barking. A raccoon came out from underneath the car and barked back at the dog, said Albanese.
“We started to walk away, but the raccoon chased us through two yards. My friend said it was at my heels,” Albanese said.
The raccoon then climbed a tree, but then came back down to chase the pair some more.
“We called 911 and were patched into animal control, who told me that animals could act strange due to the heat and being thirsty,” she said.
Animal Control Officer Michele Shiber responded to the area, however.
“It was behaving aggressively, and when the animal control officers arrived in the area where it was spotted, they managed to chase it down on Edgemont Road and capture it. Shiber says the animal was in a very bad way, displaying signs of what could have been rabies or a very bad case of distemper,” said township communications director Katya Wowk.
The animal was euthanized by a veterinarian “since it was clearly suffering,” but was not tested for disease “because it did not interact with people or animals,” she said.
“The [state] protocol is to test if there had been either,” said Wowk.
There have been two incidents of rabies in wild animals this year in Montclair. In April, a bat captured on Lexington Avenue and a raccoon trapped on on Grove Street both tested positive for rabies.
According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2015 bats were the most frequently reported rabid wildlife, accounting for 30.9 percent of cases in the United States, followed by raccoons at 29.4 percent, skunks at 24.8 percent and foxes at 5.9 percent.
Since January, four raccoons and one bat have tested positive for rabies in Essex County. Last year, there were five raccoons, one fox and one bat with rabies. In 2016, there were three rabid raccoons, one cat and one bat, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
Health officials are reminding residents to make sure pets are are up to date on their rabies vaccines. Montclair will hold a free rabies clinic on Sept. 26, 6 to 7:30 p.m., at the Harrison Avenue Fire Station.
Healthy raccoons can be seen often out during the daytime, especially a mother looking for food for her young. Raccoons have become urban animals like squirrels. Many healthy raccoons have no fear of people, according to Raccoons in the Attic a national raccoon removal service.
Five signs of a rabid raccoon:
- Difficulty walking – fully or partially paralyzed hind legs, or walking in circles.
- Looks confused, disoriented, slow. A healthy raccoon will be doing something purposeful, and it’ll look alert.
- Makes crazy noises – most healthy raccoons chatter to each other, or make a real racket when fighting or mating, but usually when they’re foraging about, they aren’t making crazy noises.
- Foaming at the mouth – if you’re close enough to see this, get away!
- Just plain looks sick – shouldn’t be too hard to tell. Raccoons can contract a variety of diseases, including distemper, but in no cases should you risk contact with a raccoon.