Decker, an 8-month-old dog from Searsmont, received puncture wounds in his snout the morning of July 12 after he was attacked by a raccoon that later tested positive for rabies. His foster parents killed the rabid critter with a shovel. Credit: Courtesy of Diane Sturgeon

A Searsmont woman and her boyfriend used a shovel to slay a rabid raccoon that attacked their puppy early Thursday morning, adding to the tally of diseased critters that have terrorized pets along the midcoast in recent weeks.

Around 5:30 a.m., Diane Sturgeon said she was about to take 8-month-old Decker on his morning walk when the raccoon emerged from the nearby woods and bounded across her backyard.

It wasn’t long before Decker noticed the lunging animal and “introduced himself,” she said, “and they started to tangle.”

[Mainer attacked by rabid raccoon drowns it in puddle]

Luckily, Sturgeon’s boyfriend, Nathan, was just about to leave for work, and darted away from his truck to intervene in the scramble, kicking the raccoon several times, Sturgeon said. But the vermin had its teeth Decker’s snout, so Nathan planted his feet on its small body while Sturgeon unlatched its jaws and pulled her puppy safely away.

With Decker corralled to the deck, Sturgeon handed her boyfriend a shovel and “Nathan took care of the raccoon,” she said. She then rushed Decker to the vet to get a rabies booster shot. The puppy, whom she is fostering for the local animal shelter, is up to date on his rabies vaccinations and is expected to be okay, she said.

Robin Dow, the town’s Animal Control Officer, later confirmed the slain raccoon tested positive for rabies, she said Saturday.

She echoed other Maine animal control officers in cautioning residents to keep their pets up to date on their vaccinations in the wake of a string rabid animal encounters that have occured along the midcoast in recent weeks. Just 60 miles down the coast, the town of Brunswick alone saw four rabid animal attacks in a two week period earlier this summer.

[Maine man, 95, uses board to kill rabid fox that bit him]

“I’m conservative with vaccination protocol for my dogs, but rabies isn’t one I’d mess around with, especially now,” Sturgeon said.

For Dow, this is the first confirmed rabid animal encounter she has dealt with in recent memory.

But she said she knows of two incidents last fall involving animals suspected to be rabid. Authorities were unable to confirm if they were diseased because the critters were badly injured by residents defending their pets or themselves.

[Maine man uses bread knife to kill rabid raccoon that attacked his dog]

In one case, on the same road as Thursday’s attack, a man shot a drooling, erratic skunk that lunged at his chickens, and then came at him, Dow said. Then, in nearby Belmont, a woman was bitten by a bat that she clubbed to death with a tennis racket, “or something to that effect,” Dow said.

Residents in the nearby town of Hope, however, have felled at least two rabid racoons in the last year — one, with a bread knife in February, and another, by drowning it in a puddle in June, 2017.

Decker is doing fine as of Saturday morning, said Sturgeon, who plans to adopt the puppy.

“We’ve trauma bonded,” she said.

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Callie Ferguson

Callie Ferguson is an investigative reporter for the Bangor Daily News. She writes about criminal justice, police and housing.