Maine woman takes raccoon into Petco for nail trim, possibly exposing people to rabies

Wildlife officials in Maine are urging the public to leave raccoons alone after a woman brought a raccoon into a Petco store Tuesday to get its nails trimmed, exposing multiple people to rabies.

The woman walked into a Petco store in Auburn, Maine, about 40 miles northwest of Portland, about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. With her was a raccoon whose nails she wanted to get trimmed, the Maine Warden Service said on Facebook this week.

While the woman waited, multiple people touched the raccoon and some kissed the animal, the warden service said. Once the store manager found out about the raccoon, the manager asked the woman to leave and contacted the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention and the warden service.

A woman took a raccoon into an Auburn, Maine Petco store to have its nails trimmed on May 23, 2023, prompting the Maine Warden Service to ask for help finding her. The warden service said multiple people touched the raccoon and some people kissed it.

The warden service posted the woman’s photo and asked for information to help find her. By Friday afternoon, the Maine Warden Service had found the woman and was testing the raccoon for rabies, a spokesperson told USA TODAY.

Rabies tests are done once the animal is euthanized. Investigators analyze tissue from at least two locations in the animal’s brain, the CDC said on its website.

A woman took a raccoon into an Auburn, Maine Petco store to have its nails trimmed on May 23, 2023, prompting the Maine Warden Service to ask for help finding her. The warden service said multiple people touched the raccoon and some people kissed it.

The Maine Warden Service said it is illegal to possess wildlife in Maine and further informed community members that Petco does not trim raccoon nails.

Social media users went back and forth about whether the woman may have had the proper credentials to own a raccoon

According to World Population Review, it is legal to own raccoons in Maine, as well as the following states:

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Michigan
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Requirements in each state may differ though.

“Raccoons are one of the most common carriers of rabies in Maine,” the Maine Warden Service wrote on Facebook. “Rabies is lethal unless treated after exposure. If you were exposed to this racoon, please contact your health provider.”

Rabies is a disease spread through a rabid animal’s saliva or neural tissue, the warden service said. People can be exposed to rabies when they come in contact with saliva or neural tissue of a rabid animal through biting or scratching, cuts in the skin or contact with the eyes, nose or mouth.

Rabid animals may appear lethargic and experience symptoms such as fever, vomiting and anorexia. They may also experience paralysis, seizures, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, abnormal behavior, aggression and self-mutilation and death, the CDC said on its website.

When people are infected by rabies, their initial symptoms are flu-like, including weakness or discomfort, fever or headache, the CDC said. The symptoms could last for days and if they progress, patients may experience anxiety, confusion and agitation. 

“The acute period of disease typically ends after 2 to 10 days,” the CDC wrote on its website. “Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal, and treatment is typically supportive. Less than 20 cases of human survival from clinical rabies have been documented.”

The warden service said if people come in contact with wildlife, it’s extremely important to enjoy it from a distance, never approach or handle it, never feed it and never try to move wild animals.

The warden service left community members with two phrases to live by when it comes to wild animals:

“Keep Wildlife Wild,” the agency wrote. “If you care, leave them there.”

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