GRAFTON -- A raccoon that was shot and killed by a Grafton resident after an encounter with the family dog turned out to be infected with rabies.
According to Dr. Robert Johnson, Vermont State Public Health Veterinarian, the animal was confirmed to have rabies on Oct. 8.
The dog that was attacked by the raccoon was not wounded but received a booster shot, he said.
Johnson said people should always be on alert when they notice an animal is acting strangely. In this case, he said, the raccoon was being very aggressive.
"It wanted to fight with anything or anybody in its way," he said.
Darlene Boissonnault, who lives at 50 Misty Drive, said at about 10 a.m. on Oct. 6 her husband, Marcel, went outside with their Collie, Buddy, and their two Shelties.
"The raccoon came out of the bushes and Buddy was a little curious," she said.
Buddy, who is 7 years old and weighs more than 90 pounds, got the best of the raccoon, said Darlene. But when Marcel called the dog off the animal, the raccoon remained aggressive.
Marcel went back into the house with Buddy and their two Shelties, but about an hour later one of the Shelties began acting funny, said Darlene. Marcel opened the back door to find the raccoon on the back steps, hissing and growling, she said.
"Marcel went upstairs for his rifle and I went to call the State Police for a game warden," said Darlene. But the dispatcher told her no game warden was available and if her husband felt comfortable shooting the animal, he should do so.
"He's not an avid hunter, but he knows how to shoot a gun," said Darlene.
After Marcel shot the animal, they bagged it up and the game warden picked it up on Oct. 7 and brought it to the state laboratory.
Darlene, 60, has lived in Grafton all her life and in the house on Misty Drive for the past 40 years. She and Marcel, 61, who is originally from Derby Line, were married 28 years ago.
This is the first time she's ever seen a rabid animal.
"We knew something was definitely wrong. It was broad daylight and a raccoon doesn't come out like that, acting loony."
This is the 41st animal to test positive for rabies in Vermont this year.
"It's a pretty average year for rabies," said Johnson.
Only two other case have been confirmed in Windham County this year. In Athens in April, rabies was confirmed in a bobcat and in Jamaica in July, it was confirmed in a fox.
Generally, said Johnson, a rabid animal is either lethargic or aggressive, sometimes falling down or having a hard time walking.
"They may have no fear of dogs or people and may have porcupine quills in their faces or smell like a skunk," said Johnson. "You can count on it being rabid. Normally, a raccoon won't go near a skunk or porcupine."
Johnson warned that people should stay away from wild animals, whether they're acting strangely or not.
It's also important that all pets are current with their rabies vaccinations, he said.
"If people don't have their dogs vaccinated, they're foolish," said Darlene, who calls Buddy her "Gentle Ben."
"You've never seen that size of a dog be so gentle. But he will protect his own."
Those who have concerns about what might be a rabid animal are urged to call the Vermont Rabies Hotline at 1-800-472-2437 or 1-802-223-8697.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.