Thursday, July 25, 2002

Rabid animals found in Cape Elizabeth

Published in the Current

A rabid raccoon and a rabid fox are the latest casualties in Cape’s rabies epidemic, one that is scarier than the outbreak two years ago because the diseased animals are aggressive.

In the 2000 outbreak, the few contacts domestic animals had with rabid ones were because a dog initiated the contact, according to Animal Control Officer Bob Leeman.

This year is different. “Now those wild animals seem to be the aggressors,” Leeman said. A dog and a cat that have come in contact with possibly rabid animals are now under quarantine in their homes in Cape, he said. A
13-year-old cat was also killed by an encounter with a rabid fox, though no bite marks were visible on the cat, Leeman said.

On the morning of July 10, a rabid fox approached a residence on Lighthouse Point Road, near Two Lights State Park. Two people were eating breakfast on an outside deck, and two dogs were with them.

The fox came up onto the deck, where one dog threw it to the side, and one of the people kicked the fox off the deck, Leeman said. It headed off into the underbrush.

Leeman was able to track the fox through neighborhood trails and yards, and shot it with the 22-caliber handgun he uses. He had to shoot it several times, as a shot to the head of a possibly rabid animal can destroy the possibility of testing for rabies.

The fox was sent to the state crime lab in Augusta, and was found to have the raccoon strain of rabies. Leeman was pleased to learn that it was not the fox strain of rabies, meaning that most of the fox population in Cape is likely to be free from rabies.

The fox in question, he said, had probably attacked a sick raccoon.

A raccoon was spotted on Spurwink Road near the transfer station July 17, and was also aggressive.

Officer Scott Thompson shot it three times in the body with a 22-caliber handgun, and it still charged to attack him. Officer Mark Dorval, also at the scene, then drew his service handgun, a 45-caliber weapon, and shot the raccoon.

Leeman warned residents to keep close watch on their pets when they’re outside, and to beware even when walking dogs on a leash.

Aggressive rabid animals may attack even when people are around, he said.

The rabies two years ago resulted in the deaths of over 50 raccoons and 24 skunks, Leeman said. He said that could mean the danger is lower now, because the populations are smaller.

Two crows were found on Shore Road near Cragmoor July 6, and were sent to Augusta to be tested for West Nile virus, which has been found in birds in Cape in the past. Leeman said he has not heard the official word on the crows, but assumes they will test positive for West Nile virus.