Officials Issue Reminders About Wildlife Contact

OCEAN CITY — After an aggressive raccoon attacked three individuals in north Ocean City in late June, the number of incidents involving aggressive wildlife interacting with humans and pets has not waned, prompting county health department officials this week to issue a warning to local residents and visitors.

The Worcester County Health Department on Monday issued a warning to residents and visitors to exercise caution and immediately report any aggressive wildlife interactions, including raccoons, foxes, skunks and feral cats, for example, to local law enforcement and animal control. The warning comes after a continued trend of aggressive wildlife interactions that began with an incident on June 18.

The health department issued a report on June 18 about an aggressive raccoon near Northside Park that had already attacked one individual. It was later learned that two more individuals were charged by what authorities believe is the same raccoon. The raccoon first came at a group of landscapers working around Northside Park and made contact with one of the crewmembers. Although the individual wasn’t bitten, nor did he have an open wound, the worker was treated with shots for rabies because he had come in contact with the potentially rabid wild animal.

Strangely enough, the same landscaping crew was working in a different area in north Ocean City about five blocks away the next day when presumably the same rabid raccoon attacked them again. The raccoon reportedly swam across a canal and came out of the water soaking wet and aggressively approached the landscaping crew, which ultimately hit the animal with a shovel and killed it. The dead raccoon was collected and tested positive for rabies.

Since that June 18 incident, the health department has continued to receive reports of aggressive wildlife, including raccoons, approaching or attacking people and pets in north Ocean City in areas roughly from 85th to 130th streets.

To date in 2013, Worcester County has had 18 confirmed positive rabid animals and 15 other animals suspected of having rabies that have had contact with people or pets. The cases have been reported throughout Worcester County including Ocean City. The incidents have resulted in rabies treatments for exposed humans and quarantine or euthanasia for exposed pets.

Worcester County health officials are requesting immediate reporting of any aggressive or threatening wildlife to law enforcement or animal control. Local law enforcement or animal control will then contact the health department of any possible human or pet exposures and determine whether or not rabies testing is needed.

To report any contact with or exposure to this particular raccoon or any other wildlife suspected of being rabid, call the Worcester County Health Department at 410-632-1100, or 410-352-3234.

Meanwhile, the health department this week is offering tips to protect individuals and pets from rabies exposure. Pets should be vaccinated and those vaccinations should be kept current. Maryland law requires vaccination against rabies for all dogs, cats and ferrets over four months of age. Rabies vaccinations have limited times of protection, so pet owners should verify that their animals are currently protected.