VIDEO: Officials issue warning after 2 potentially rabid raccoon attacks near Princeton University

Rabies is a potentially fatal virus that can be prevented by avoiding contact with animals that may be rabid.

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Thursday, December 7, 2023
VIDEO: 2 potentially rabid raccoon attacks reported near Princeton
VIDEO: 2 potentially rabid raccoon attacks reported near Princeton

PRINCETON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A Princeton University student is being treated after being attacked by a raccoon that is suspected to have rabies. It is the second incident this week involving a potentially rabid raccoon, according to health officials in Princeton, New Jersey.

The first attack was on Monday around 8:45 a.m. near the Dillon Gym on the Princeton, New Jersey campus. Officials say the raccoon was exhibiting behaviors commonly associated with rabies, including chirping noises, unprovoked aggression and no fear of humans. The student has since received post-exposure treatment.

Students on campus were alerted. We spoke to one who saw the video.

"It was pretty shocking," said senior Valerie Wales. "Definitely very scary and not the way you usually think wildlife will interact with people."

Princeton's animal control officer saw the video, too.

"The aggression the animal showed, it was making high pitched chirping noises which is very common with rabid raccoons in my six years of doing this," said animal control officer Jim Ferry.

Then, a resident on Hibben Road reported that they were attacked by a raccoon that was sitting on their door mat around 6 a.m. on Wednesday. That person was able to escape without being injured but did report the same behavior in the raccoon they encountered.

Ferry says most rabid raccoons don't act like this.

"It's relatively uncommon, the more aggressive rabies infection. This is when the animal is extremely agitated. The animal is going to charge anything that comes near it," said Ferry.

The city's animal control is working closely with the university to locate and capture the raccoon(s), officials said.

Rabies is a potentially fatal virus that can be prevented by avoiding contact with animals that may be rabid. It can be spread from a bite of a rabid animal or when an animal's saliva comes in contact with a person's mouth, eye or an open sore.

If you or a loved one gets bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar animal or an animal suspected to have rabies, officials say you should immediately wash the wound with soap and water and then seek medical attention. Your medical provider should then report and coordinate with local health officials.

While not all exposures require post-exposure treatment, anyone who is exposed should get vaccinated right away to help prevent the disease.

It also poses a threat to unvaccinated domestic animals. Officials say these recent incidents should be a reminder for pet owners to make sure their animals are up-to-date with their rabies vaccinations.

Human cases of rabies in the United States are rare, according to health officials. Bats are most commonly found to have the disease, but skunks, foxes and raccoons can also develop rabies.

Behavioral signs of rabid animals (both wild and domestic):

  • Staggering
  • Restlessness
  • Aggression
  • A change of the tone of their barks or growls
  • Choking
  • Passive animals sometimes become fierce and aggressive
  • Nocturnal animals sometimes appear during the day

Princeton Animal Control says that if you come across a domestic animal such as a cat or dog that is sick, injured, dead, orphaned or behaving oddly, it's best to leave it alone and contact them right away.

Domestic animals with known or suspected exposure must receive booster vaccinations and must be quarantined by the Princeton Health Department. Questions about suspected exposure should be directed to Animal Control at (609) 924-2728. They are available Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. For nights and weekends, you can call the police non-emergency number at (609) 921-2100.

Also, if you spot a wild animal in a similar condition, officials say to leave it alone and contact the police. Reporting bites is a legal obligation to assure any/all actions are taken to protect the individuals involved and the public at large.

Steps to protect your family and pets from rabies:

  • Make sure your pets and domestic animals are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations.
  • Keep children and pets from approaching or touching wild or strange animals.
  • Make sure that any openings to your home such as crawl spaces, chimneys, attics, porches or garages are sealed or covered with thick wire screen to prevent entry by wild animals.
  • Discourage wild animal foraging by not leaving pet food outside and by securing garbage cans.
  • Avoid feeding, touching, or housing stray or wild animals.
  • If you see a domestic or wild animal that is sick, injured, dead, orphaned or behaving oddly, leave it alone and contact the Police Department Dispatch at (609) 921- 2100. Do NOT handle the animal yourself.