A Kennebunkport woman and a game warden were bitten last week by an injured rabid raccoon that the resident had illegally taken into her house.
Game warden Eric Blanchard was bitten as he tried to remove the wild animal from a house in town. The woman had taken in the injured animal illegally and could face charges, according to officials.
It was the first confirmed case of rabies in Kennebunkport this year, police said. Blanchard and the woman are both undergoing treatment for rabies.
“This is kind of a worst-case scenario,” said Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service. “It’s a real reminder that this is the reason why it’s not a safe thing to do.”
MacDonald said it is not uncommon for people to take in wild animals, but said they should not do so because it is both illegal and dangerous.
“People have an instinct to want to take care of animals. Most people understand the risk involved with taking a wild animal into their home,” he said. “They think they’re doing the animal a favor, but wild animals can be very dangerous and unpredictable, especially one prone to rabies.”
Blanchard, the 2017 game warden of the year, was wearing a thick, rabies glove similar to ones used to handle raptors with talons when the raccoon tried to bite through the thumb. Blanchard did not believe the raccoon had broken through his skin, but was advised to go through treatment for rabies exposure as a precaution, MacDonald said.
MacDonald said the Warden Service would not make Blanchard available to speak to a reporter about the incident.
In Maine, it is illegal to keep wildlife in captivity without a proper permit, MacDonald said. Permits and licenses are issued to people who regularly come into contact with wild animals, including wildlife rehabilitators and people who relocate nuisance animals. Possessing wildlife without a permit is a Class E crime punishable with a minimum fine of $50 per day the animal was in a person’s possession.
MacDonald said he is not yet releasing the name of the woman because it is likely she will face charges.
Police said in a Facebook post that wild animals should be left alone outside. Local police or the Maine Warden Service should be contacted when wild animals appear injured or have become a nuisance.
“In no circumstances do we tell people to take (wild animals) into their homes or even touch them,” MacDonald said.
The attack in Kennebunkport follows a number of high-profile rabies incidents this year in Brunswick, where seven people have been bitten by rabid animals.