This past week, Channel 4/WTAE ran a story about a raccoon with a glass jar stuck on his head, who had been in a resident’s tree in Shenango Township (Lawrence County) for 4 days. The resident, clearly a compassionate person, was worried about the raccoon’s well-being and called the TV station. The link to the story (at time of writing) is here:
Just as we were being alerted to the situation and hoping we could figure something out to get the poor raccoon to a rehabilitator to remove the jar, the story was updated: Unfortunately—as it turned out—the Pennsylvania Game Commission had also been called. They had shot the raccoon dead in the tree, stating to the media that they “believed” the animal had rabies. But believed that why?
True, you can suspect an animal has rabies through certain behaviors, although you can only prove it through testing the brain tissue. How likely is it however that an animal who stuck his head in a jar (presumably to access food) was rabid (rabid raccoons are notoriously difficult to attract into a trap because they aren’t hungry)? Active rabies develops fast and furiously and the raccoon had been sitting in the tree for 4 days displaying no other sign of the disease. It’s extremely hard to imagine how any rabid animal could stay up in a tree for that long. But apparently the PAGC, in its wisdom, could.
Whatever “result” the PAGC’s rabies testing comes back with, we find it very hard to believe that raccoon was rabid. Instead of being offered compassion and help, he was killed in cold blood after suffering for days, because it was just too much work to get this animal (teeth covered by a jar, remember) out of the tree and take him for treatment. And the person who wanted to assist him by calling in an organization she thought was pro-wildlife was betrayed.
We know about this incident because the media were contacted. We also know that countless unnecessary killings of this kind are carried out every year by the PAGC. They are par for the course, they slip under the wire unnoticed, and this is totally unacceptable.
The only encouraging thing to come out of this whole story is the overwhelmingly outraged response from the public on the WTAE website and Facebook page. Clearly, a lot of Pennsylvanians do care about these issues. Rehabbers also complained that they could easily have helped the animal if he had just been brought to them.
Here are some of the 50 (to date) comments made. Again the vast majority were in favor of helping the raccoon. We don’t intend to forget this incident, and if you have some stories of your own about the PAGC killing rather than helping, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“… that’s because people in general like to complain. They feel funding should be taken from one source to aid another. The Game Commission had NO REASON to Kill that animal. God forbid the same people that complain about those resources get off their butts and donate their time and money to any cause. Adult People can take care of themselves. This was one species “GOD” complex and feeling the need to take the life of something else for the sake of it being more convenient. People do not have the right to kill an animal for being an animal. Unless that animal is being used completely for food, fur, and a way to live…it should be helped or left alone. This was a life. It was not hurting anyone. It was not going to be used for anything. It was executed for NO REASON.”
“I wonder why they thought it was rabid? Maybe having a jar stuck to your face where you can’t eat or drink would make you a little crazy, too?”
“This makes me so upset! They “believe” the raccoon had rabies? They just wanted the easiest way to end the situation! Poor little thing suffered for days and that is how its life ends? Sad.”
“The Pennsylvania Game Commission should be ashamed! Idiots! It had a jar stuck on it’s head and was stuck in a tree so it must have been rabid? Raccoons like this are helped all the time. They were either too lazy or too ignorant to do the right thing and I would say both.”
“There were no reports anywhere that suggest the animal was rabid, no foaming at the mouth, erratic behavior, hair falling out or rage. Nothing. It was a poor sick animal. Nothing else. The Game Commission should be ashamed of themselves.”
“Sounds to me like the Game Commission took the easy way out. How could they possibly tell if it was rabid if it was too high up in the tree? Easier just to kill the poor thing I guess.”
“The PA Game Commission has proven itself to be incompetent and bald faced liars. One of the chief symptoms of rabies is the inability to swallow. A raccoon with a jar on his head was obviously foraging for food. Once the jar became stuck, the raccoon tried to find safety, and the tree was a natural choice. If the agent could hit the raccoon with a bullet, he obviously could have hit him with a tranquilizer dart. I rescued a skunk with a jar on his head at the Forsythe Wildlife Refuge a few years ago. Scooped him up in a canvas bag and rushed him to a veterinarian, who was able to anesthetize him and break the jar. I took him to a wildlife rehabilitator who nursed him back to health and released him where he was found. Between the lying PA Game Commission agent and the people who throw trash where animals can be harmed, this raccon didn’t have a chance. Shame on all of them. The only hero here was Tammy Yakubic, the woman who tried to help.”
“She probably thought calling the Game Commission was the best thing to do, I would have done the same thing too not knowing what I know now. Good for her for calling the news too or I’m sure this would have got no attention. Thanks for trying Tammy!”
“This is so sad! I can’t believe they would just kill it like that! I would have climbed up there myself in leather gloves and a leather jacket to keep him from scratching at me. I realize that they are just vermon to most people that dig into the trash and a lot of times they can be rabid, but what a sad and terrible way for ANY creature to die! :'(“
“Good excuse to take the easy way out. If the animal had rabies, it would have come down from that tree. Way to go PA Game Commission!”
“Awe~this is sad! I Too high up in the tree for an intervention? The PA Game and Wildlife Commission Mission statement states ….. to manage and protect wildlife. Something is wrong with this picture …”
“SHAME on those wildlife officials!!!!! I would of helped this guy in a heart beat!!!”
“Just because that little guy was up in the tree with his face stuck in a jar and it was during the day, does not mean that animal had rabies. If your life was jeopardized you would not sleep either! That poor raccoon was traumatized and then to be shot and killed! Guess Game Commission needed gun practice on the wild! Heartless!”
“You can’t tell if any animal is rabid by looking at it. It has to have a battery of medical tests done to it. Naturally, most of these tests are done post-mortem, but there were other ways of dealing with this than shooting it! What if your pet kitty cat gets stuck way up a tree/ Would the authorities shoot it down like in the police Academy movie? Someone didn’t think here. True it is a wild animal but it is a living thing as well.”
“PGC – did you have the animal tested to confirm your poor decision here? No, not likely since no bite was involved. You are an asinine example of “wildlife professionals”.”
“This was just plain cruel – If he had rabies he couldn’t have bit anyone with his head in the jar and what symptoms did he show – He was terrified! I’m sure the woman that called for help is horrified by the outcome! Way to go Game Commission.”
“No, they don’t do anything. I have found baby raccoons and they kill them as well.”
“LIVID! WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?”
“the one thing that crosses my mind is….why didn’t someone just grab a ladder and some gloves and go up and get him? its not like he could’ve bit them with a freaking jar on his face! this just makes no sense to me! This poor animal could’ve been saved! they just wanted to shoot it cause the lady said she called them and they refused to do anything about it!”
“How said poor things face was stuck in a jar, and than to top it of authorities claimed it had rabies without no evidence they only did that because they didn’t want to use other resources such as take the time out to use a tranquilizer gun which I’m sure they had on hand (The gaming commission) Animals are important as well as humans we do share the land.”
“I just found out they killed it. That’s a shame. How in the heck did they know it had rabies, they didn’t even get close enough to it to find out? They just didn’t want to deal with it, obviously. So typical.”
“Really?They could have done plenty! They were just too lazy and careless so they shot it!”
“Call a wildlife rehabilitator….find the numbers of those local to you and kep them handy when you are need. We will respond quickly and do everything possible to save the animal. I for one have pulled many jars of animals heads. All have survived and not 1 was diseased, just simply misfortunate in trying to get that last bite of peanut butter…”
“Very easy, the Game Commission could of tranquilized the Raccoon, then when they got it down, take off the jar, and free the animal…..there was no PROOF it was rabid…what is wrong with our system! All you need is common sense.”
“I don’t think they were ignorant Gracie – they knew they could call a rehabber for help, just didn’t want to bother. Bet they think they’re pretty cool. If I were them, I wouldn’t be showing my face in public any time soon.”
“It did not display symptoms of rabies. You can’t know an animal has rabies, unless you destroy it. The raccoon did not attack from the tree. It stayed hidden. Does not sound like a rabid raccoon. If people in your neighborhood put their trash in cans with lids, the raccoon would stay clear of your homes.”
“Uh-huh. Just like the deer that was stuck on a hill above McKnight Road a few years ago. Just be honest about it.”
“So how can you tell it had rabbies if it had a jar on its head? idiots.”
“Wildlife rehabbers are not paid, so *everything* we do is out of pocket. As for how to get it out of the tree – this is something we deal with all the time. It’s got a jar on its head – the most dangerous part of it is covered. A ladder, some leather gloves, and a carrier cage. Once you get the jar off (which is usually pretty easy), you hold the animal in quarantine to see if it is showing any signs of disease. If not, release back to the wild. This isn’t an unusual or complicated situation for rehabbers – but no one called a rehabber or contacted anyone who knew how to handle the situation in a non-lethal way. because it was just easier to shoot it. lazy SOBs.”
“This story disgusts me. I guess the game commission thought it was cheaper to just kill the animal than help it. I’m curious to see whether their diagnosis is actually confirmed.”