Posted at: 10/24/2012 7:03 PM
By: Dan Conradt
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- For a couple of weeks, some normally wild animals have been acting strangely in the Austin area.
Now, they've gone from being a nuisance to being a health concern.
"Yesterday, deputies were called to a residence where a little three year old girl had been bitten by a raccoon," said Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi.
The little girl had just stepped out onto the porch of her family's rural home on highway 218 south. Her mother checked on her a short time later.
"And observed the little girl had a raccoon on her arm," Amazi explained.
The three year old was treated at the hospital for scratches and four puncture wounds to her arm. It was the first such case in the county, but the raccoons have been acting odd in Austin for more than a week.
"Some of the officers describe their behavior as almost an intoxicated state where they're very unsteady on their feet," said Austin Police Chief Brian Krueger. “The most alarming thing is they're not afraid of people.”
“If a raccoon notices you and there's not any concern there, that's unusual behavior," added Hormel Nature Center Director Larry Dolphin. “I've walked down the trail and surprised a raccoon, and he just took off the other direction."
In the Austin cases, like in the case where the three year old was bitten, the raccoons have come out during the day.
"Raccoons are nocturnal," naturalist Larry Dolphin told us. “For them to be out in the middle of the day it's very likely there's something wrong with that raccoon.
"It is rather alarming, and unsure what the cause is at this time," said Austin Police Chief Brian Krueger.
“I did contact the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, and it is cyclic," added sheriff Terese Amazi.
“And obviously we tell individuals to stay away from them," said Police Chief Brian Krueger.
The raccoon that bit the three year old was killed by the girl's father. The animal's remains will be examined to see if it was carrying a disease.