Raccoon’s actions raise Rockwell couple’s suspicions
By Kathy Chaffin
ROCKWELL ó The Rev. Bill Cutshaw and his wife, Deborah, were standing in front of Holy Power Church talking with members of the congregation Sunday when someone spotted a raccoon crossing the highway.
“I don’t really know who saw it first,” Deborah said. The raccoon was headed across N.C. 152 toward the church, located about a quarter of a mile from Anchor House Seafood. “You know that’s very unusual during the day.”
When a truck driver blew the horn, she said the raccoon turned around and headed toward the home of Doris and Wayne Morgan. “It was very disoriented,” she said.
Her husband, concerned that the raccoon might be rabid, went inside the parsonage attached to the church and got his gun. “He’s a hunter,” Deborah said.
The Rev. Cutshaw and church member Jimmy Marlo walked across the highway to the Morgan residence, where the raccoon was on a ramp headed onto their front porch. “It was foaming at the mouth,” she said, “and it lunged at my husband three times.”
Deborah Cutshaw said she tried to call the Morgans to let them know what was happening, but their phone was busy.
Doris Morgan said she happened to look out her window, saw the pastor with a gun and wondered what in the world he was doing.
Then she spotted the raccoon. “It was just acting very weak,” she said, “like it was all it could do to walk.
“It was the awfulest looking thing. Its coat looked awfully matted.”
Doris said the raccoon wandered around the porch for a little bit, then headed down the steps toward their garage. “That’s when he shot and killed it in our driveway,” she said.
Deborah said Bill waited until the raccoon was off the porch and away from the house before he would take a shot at it. “He killed it with the first shot,” she said. “Bill offered to take care of it … but (Doris) said they needed to have it sent off and tested.”
Doris Morgan called the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office to see if an animal control officer could come pick up the dead raccoon because her husband had just gotten out of the hospital and wasn’t physically able to bury it.
The animal control officer she talked to said he couldn’t come unless there had been a confirmed contact with a pet not current on its rabies vaccination or a human and asked if she had a neighbor that could take care of it. Doris said yes, but that she felt like the raccoon needed to be tested.
Deborah, after talking with Doris, also called the sheriff’s office and asked for an animal control officer to call her. He did, she said, and told her essentially the same thing that he had told Doris.
The officer did recommend that Bill Cutshaw put on gloves before burying the raccoon and pour Clorox on the raccoon’s head and the shovel, Deborah said.
Bill followed his directions. Doris Morgan, in the meantime, sprayed Clorox everywhere the raccoon had been.
Deborah Cutshaw called the Post Sunday afternoon with her concern that neighbors on N.C. 152 should be notified about the suspected rabies raccoon in case their animals become sick.
Fran Pepper, office manager for Rowan County Animal Control, said the N.C. State Veterinarian’s Office will not test animals suspected of being rabid unless there has been confirmed contact with a pet not current on its vaccination or a human.
“They don’t even want us to send in an animal that’s bitten somebody if it can be quarantined for 10 days,” she said.
Pepper said the state tightened its criteria in 1998 because of the demand of doing testing for all 100 counties. Animal Control staff are not allowed to advise people to shoot an animal suspected of being rabid.
“We just tell them to dispose of it if they shoot it,” she said, adding that they also warn them not to handle the dead animal with their bare hands.
Sometimes, Pepper said animals which appear to have symptoms of rabies may actually be suffering from other diseases such as dysentery. While rabies can cause normally nocturnal animals to venture out during the day, she said they could also be caring for their babies.
A few years ago, she said someone shot a fox after spotting it on his property during the day. As it turned out, the fox had a den of babies in the person’s shed.
“Of course, we had to put them to sleep,” Pepper said.
With houses and commercial development encroaching on the territory of wild animals, she said humans are going to have to learn to coexist with them. “Avoidance is your best option,” she said.
Pepper said one way to discourage wild animals from approaching houses is to make sure there is no food around. “If they find a food source, they’re going to stick around,” she said.
For more information on state and county Animal Control policies, contact Rowan County Animal Control at 704-633-0482.