It goes without saying that a rabid raccoon encounter should be reported to a local animal control service. Technically, any warm-blooded animal can carry rabies, but raccoons, along with skunks, foxes and bats, are considered “rabies vector species.” If you were to spot a raccoon that seems disoriented while demonstrating other odd behaviors, then there is a good chance that that raccoon has succumbed to a rabies infection. Of course, such a raccoon could also be drunk, as was the case recently in a small West Virginia town. The town’s local police department posted a facebook message that detailed how a group of concerned citizens reported a group of raccoons that had been behaving as though they had rabies. It turned out that the raccoons had been acting strangely due to being drunk, and none of the critters tested positive for rabies.
As you can imagine, the residents that reported the seemingly rabid raccoons were surprised to learn that the animals were merely drunk. Most people are aware that the rabies virus induces strange and aggressive behaviors in infected animals, but how many people know that raccoons sometimes get drunk? After it was revealed that the raccoons were actually drunk, the residents of Milton naturally wondered how and why the raccoons had consumed alcohol. According to National Geographic nature writer, Liz Langley, wild animals can be attracted to overripe fruits. For example, Langley mentioned how white-tailed deer will sometimes feed on fermented apples within orchards, which causes the deer to become sleepy and disoriented. For the deer, this could have severe repercussions for their safety. If a deer becomes sleepy and disoriented, it will be a lot easier for hunters to catch them with their equipment, like crossbow broadheads, for example. Not being able to find a sanctuary or a safe place in the wilderness due to being intoxicated, will mean that they have an increased risk of getting caught.
The inebriated raccoons in the town of Milton were apprehended and held in custody by the local police until the critters sobered up. Once the raccoons were no longer intoxicated, the police released the animals back into the wild. While rabid raccoons are certainly more dangerous to humans than drunk raccoons, the latter can still become belligerent and unpredictable around humans. Even drunk raccoons should still be reported to authorities when they are spotted in order to keep humans, pets and other animals safe.
Have you ever encountered a wild animal feeding on fermented fruit?