December 10, 2018
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Maine man shoots one-eyed rabid raccoon that holed up in outhouse

Photo courtesy of Johlene Howard
Photo courtesy of Johlene Howard
Ben and Johlene Howard of Princeton survived an encounter with a rabid raccoon last week that could have been nasty but for Ben's prowess with a shotgun.

A Washington County man used a shotgun to kill a rabid raccoon that had wandered onto his property last week. Test results released Tuesday confirmed that the animal had rabies.

Ben Howard of Princeton shot the raccoon at dusk on Jan. 18 upon request from game warden Brad Richard. Speaking to Howard by telephone, Richard asked Howard to kill the raccoon to prevent the spread of the disease.

“It was a situation where I was quite a ways away and we didn’t want the raccoon to get away,” Richard said Wednesday.

The incident was Maine’s third involving a rabid animal this year, according to Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention statistics.

[Mainer attacked by rabid raccoon drowns it in puddle]

Maine has been beset with rabies cases among wild animals and pets during the past two years. In 2015, 33 cases were reported, compared to 76 cases in 2016 and 67 last year.

With raccoons in hibernation, it’s a troubling time for rabies to emerge, said Richard, adding that the cases underline the need for pet owners to keep their animals vaccinated.

A rabid raccoon was found in the Cumberland County town of Raymond on Jan. 2 and a pet cat was found in East Machias, also in Washington County, on Jan. 10, according to Maine’s Division of Public Health Systems.

The two Washington County cases are not directly connected, Richard said, although the disease in both cases might have migrated from nearby New Brunswick, which has had several cases recently.

[Maine jogger who killed rabid raccoon becomes overnight media sensation]

Ben Howard’s wife, 25-year-old Johlene Howard, said he killed the animal after it had wandered into a long disused outhouse. They called the warden service after a neighbor told them she saw the animal behaving strangely.

The raccoon was missing an eye “and talkative and walking around,” said Howard, who called the incident stressful. A game warden removed the carcass the next day.

“I really want this to draw attention to the fact that Maine needs to do more bait vaccinations and hold more rabies clinics,” Johlene Howard said. “This is expensive.”

Bait vaccinations are vaccine-injected treats left in the wild for animals. Federal officials spread 351,000 doses of an oral vaccine over 2,405 square miles of northeastern Maine last year as part of stepped-up efforts to curtail rabies in raccoons.

The Howards’ dog, a terrier mix named Laiyla, got a booster shot on Wednesday as a precaution. The dog came close to but never touched the raccoon, Johlene Howard said.

Three more pets are due for vaccination boosters on Friday, she said.

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