HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - A raccoon attacked a 63-year-old woman and her dog a few steps outside the front door of her residence Tuesday morning, according to police.
Irene Rothschild told police she had walked out the front door of her home at 424 Bigley Road with her dog around 11 a.m. when the raccoon attacked, biting and scratching the dog.
Neighbors on social media say Rothschild went back inside the home with the dog, came back outside and was attacked and bitten by the raccoon before the animal ran off.
Police were called, and both she and the dog were treated for their injuries by emergency medical personnel and the family's veterinarian.
Rothschild was administered a post exposure rabies vaccine, according to Annie Feddemen from the North Branch office of the St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center.
Animal control officers from St. Hubert's set traps for the raccoon, but the animal was not captured; the traps were removed at the end of the day. The animal has not been seen, and it is not known whether it was rabid, according to Feddemen.
"Setting the trap is usually not successful," she said, explaining that if the raccoon were rabid, it would not be functioning using a normal thought process.
"The raccoon would not be lured by food; it doesn't necessarily have an appetite and won't want to go in the trap," she said, "At this point, even if we caught a raccoon, we couldn't be sure it was the one that bit the woman and her dog."
Though not unusual, Feddemen said raccoon attacks occur more frequently in the spring and summer when the animals are mating and being protective of their young brood.
She said there are other neurological symptoms that will cause a raccoon to be outwardly aggressive and seek out a person to attack, including distemper or an injury to the head.
The Hillsborough Health Department will continue to monitor the situation.
Hillsborough Police also urged residents to be cautious when encountering wildlife.
The WildlifeAnimalControl.com website provides more insight into the behavior of raccoons:
"Raccoons are commonly found in rural as well as urban settings and most of the times their presence in an environment brings different kinds of complications for inhabitants. In United States generally raccoons are considered as the main carriers of rabies so people normally get extra conscious after seeing them. Normally all warm blooded animals have the capacity of carrying rabies, but as for raccoons they are categorized as the Rabies Vector Species.
"This further highlights the fact that you have to be extremely careful while dealing with these kinds of animals. For your information it is important to mention that after contracting rabies a raccoon normally dies within one to three days and if you have received a bite from rabid raccoons then good thing is that effective treatment is available for this, but it is upon you to visit the nearest medical facility as soon as possible.
"Seeing a raccoon during daytime doesn’t ensure that it has rabies. It is not necessary that such an animal will be sick or dangerous. For raccoons it is not entirely abnormal to be out during daytime. They can be out searching for food. However, if you notice the below mentioned behavioral patterns, seek assistance from police or wild life control officers:
- A raccoon unaware of sounds or movements taking place in surroundings
- Discharge coming from mouth and eyes
- Recurrent high pitch vocalization
- Erratic wandering
- Staggering gait."