SORRENTO, Maine — An injured raccoon that was brought to the attention of state police late last week and then disappeared with its rescuer has been accounted for.
The animal is being cared for at a Bar Harbor wildlife rehabilitation center, according to officials.
Maine State Police learned of the animal Dec. 7, when a woman called 911 to report it was injured in a road in Sorrento. The caller told a Maine State Police dispatcher that she wanted the raccoon taken to a veterinarian to be rehabilitated but, according to a Maine State Police incident summary, was told the animal would have to be euthanized and tested for rabies.
At that point, the woman stopped providing any more information to the dispatcher.
“The complainant refused to tell [state officials] where she was,” state police indicated. “Neither the complainant nor the raccoon has been heard from since.”
But other officials have spoken with the woman, whose name is Tish Noyes.
When contacted Tuesday by phone, Noyes said she came across the injured animal around 11 p.m. Dec. 7 while driving to her home in Sorrento from Bagaduce Chorale practice in Blue Hill. She said that, as she spoke to the dispatcher about the options, she didn’t think euthanizing the animal made any sense. It was semi-conscious, she said, and appeared to have been struck by a vehicle, but it was not bleeding.
“This animal was not necessarily fatally injured,” Noyes said. “I thought it could be rehabilitated. You shouldn’t just assume this animal has rabies. I feel kind of strongly about this.”
So Noyes put on a pair of gloves she had with her, carefully picked up the raccoon and put it in a seat covering she had in her car. She took the raccoon home and put it in a box in her garage for the night, with the plan of contacting a licensed animal rehabilitator in the morning.
“She didn’t even try to bite me once,” Noyes said about the raccoon.
The Maine Warden Service was notified by state police and, at some point, the Gouldsboro Police Department became involved. Noyes said she talked by phone that night to a Gouldsboro police officer, who initially told her she should not have picked up the animal. The officer then relented, however, and said she could keep it just for the night.
In the morning, Noyes did some searching online and found out about the Acadia Wildlife Foundation in Bar Harbor. She called Ann Rivers, the foundation director, and made arrangements to bring her the injured animal in a box.
Rivers said Tuesday the animal is doing OK, though it is not eating and drinking on its own yet. She said the raccoon appears to have a concussion from being struck by a vehicle.
“I think she’s going to live,” Rivers said.
Rivers said the state advises licensed wildlife rehabilitators like herself not to handle “rabies vector” species such as raccoons, skunks and foxes. But helping injured animals is what licensed rehabilitators do, she added.
“We all have our post-exposure rabies shots,” Rivers said.
Rivers said animals with rabies are not contagious until it reaches their brains and they start to exhibit symptoms. This raccoon has no bite wounds and shows no symptoms of being infected, she said, and she always takes precautions to avoid being bitten when handling possibly infected animals.
“I’m careful and I know what I’m looking for,” she said.
Rivers said game wardens usually are too busy dealing with game animals such as deer or bears, or responding to reports of lost hunters to respond to complaints about injured raccoons. But she said it would be better for wardens to be dealing with injured “rabies vector” animals, instead of the public. She said the public should never try to rehabilitate animals on their own.
“They should be in the rescue business and let someone else [with proper training] do the rest,” Rivers said.
She added, however, that Noyes seemed to take all the reasonable precautions in handling the animal and in contacting and then delivering the raccoon to the wildlife foundation.
Noyes said she would do the same thing again if she comes across an injured animal. The only thing she would do differently, she said, is that she would call Rivers first.
“I’m very gratified that I got to do this, that I got to help this animal,” Noyes said. “I’m very much an animal advocate.”
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.