LAKE COMO, NJ — Belmar Police are alerting Lake Como and Belmar residents of an unprovoked attack by a raccoon yesterday morning on a Lake Como resident and her dog in Behrman Park.
While neither the dog nor its owner were injured in the incident, which was reported at about 7:45 a.m. on March 21, police and Monmouth County SPCA animal control officers were unsuccessful in capturing the raccoon.
According to one account, the raccoon confronted the woman and her dog near the 22nd Avenue entrance of the park, but quickly fled, running up a tall tree before jumping and heading into Spring Lake.
Behrman Park is located in Lake Como off 18th Avenue near the railroad tracks, running parallel to Margerum Avenue and accessible from 22nd Avenue, where the Belmar/Lake Como Little League field is situated.
The attack comes more than six weeks after a rabid raccoon attacked and killed a family cat in the backyard of a 13th Avenue home in Belmar and more than two months after a woman on Eighth Avenue in Belmar and a nearby dog were bitten by a rabid raccoon.
In the 13th Avenue incident on February 5, Kathy and Martin Schutt’s 14-year-old cat was on its back deck when it was fatally attached by a raccoon. The police were able to locate the raccoon on 15th Avenue, where it also attempted to attack them before being captured and turned over to the SPCA upon its arrival, according to the police.
On January 16, Audrey DiPasquale, 83, was in her Eighth Avenue backyard at about 3:30 p.m. when she was attacked and severely bitten on her right hand and foot by a raccoon, and shortly thereafter several blocks away, a dog was then bitten by what is presumed to be the same raccoon.
A raccoon that was captured the following day —and assumed to be the attacking animal — tested positive for rabies, according to the SPCA, the Eatontown-based agency that provides animal control services to Belmar and Lake Como
DiPasquale came before the Belmar Council at its March 19 regular meeting, recounting her harrowing ordeal that is still causing her depression and pain. “I am petrified it will happen again,” she said.
She also called on borough officials to notify the community about the presence of an attacking raccoon as soon as there is a sighting. She maintained a raccoon tried to attack someone several days before her attack, but a communitywide alert did not go out.
“I don’t know who’s at fault, but I’m doing this for the people of Belmar and Lake Como,” DiPasquale said, referring to officially bringing the matter before the governing body.
Police Chief Andrew Huisman said that “code red messages” through the telephone-based emergency notification system and on the police department’s Facebook page were issued immediately after each attack.The same alerts went out after today’s attack in Lake Como.
Police warned residents of both towns to be vigilant and cautious around any wild animals and to call the department at 732-681-1700 if they see any wild animals acting strangely.
KEEPING SAFE FROM RABIES: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Because rabies is fatal once symptoms develop, Monmouth health officials advise residents to make sure their pets are up to date on their rabies vaccine, as well as to take these precautionary steps to protect themselves and their pets:
- Avoid wildlife and animals you do not know.
- Keep your pet on a leash. Do not allow your pet to roam; it can come in contact with rabid wildlife.
- Never feed or touch wild or stray animals, especially stray cats, bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes or groundhogs.
- Teach your children that they should tell you if they were bitten or scratched by an animal.
- Call your doctor and the local health department if bitten or exposed to saliva or blood of a wild or stray animal.
- Contact your veterinarian if your pet was exposed to a bat, raccoon, skunk or other wild carnivore.
“If you are bitten by an animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water and seek medical attention,” said Christopher Merkel, Monmouth County’s public health coordinator.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to CDC each year from New Jersey occur in wild animals, including raccoons, skunks and bats.
Wildlife infected with rabies exhibit such behavior as unprovoked aggression, impaired movement, paralysis, lack of coordination, unusually friendly behavior and/or disorientation.
For humans, the early symptoms of rabies, which attacks the central nervous system, are similar to those of many other illnesses, including fever, headache and general weakness or discomfort. However, the disease progresses quickly, causing specific symptoms that may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.
For more information, call the Monmouth County Health Department at 732-431-7456.
TAPinto Belmar/Lake Como is Belmar and Lake Como’s only free daily newspaper. Accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, it is a locally owned news organization serving the community. Our advertisers enable us to publish local online news at no charge. Sign up for our free daily e-News, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.