Rabid raccoons have been turning up in Wellesley. Animal control officer Sue Webb says that since September, she has trapped between five and 10 rabid raccoons in the western area of town.
“Their behavior is highly suspicious,” she said. “Raccoons don’t attack inanimate objects, but when they’re rabid, they do.”
A rabid racoon might go after a branch blowing in the wind, cars heading down driveway, even the side of a shed. “One chased me in the woods,” she said. “Me and my dog. We ran.”
Though she was off-duty at the time, Webb went back out to find the animal, but it had disappeared.
No humans or pets have been bitten so far, she said.
Usually, she said, she gets almost no reports of rabid raccoons, but every four or five years their population peaks and diseases spread quickly. A typical raccoon rabies spike lasts for about a year, she said.
In addition to unusually aggressive behavior, Webb said that earlier stages of rabies can manifest as lethargy. Rabid raccoons can be unusually friendly, walking straight up to people and begging for food.
Webb cautioned against going near any raccoons, even ones that appear to be injured and needing help. They can get hit by cars, she said, because they’re rabid and chasing tires.
“I encourage people to report the sick animals before somebody’s pet gets bitten,” she said.
The reason there have been no bites so far? Alert residents have called Webb, and she’s caught the raccoons before they could do any damage.
Wellesley residents who see raccoons that appear sick should call Webb at 781-235-8460.
Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.