'Dead' raccoon takes down wrestling team

You're driving down the road. You see a dead raccoon. Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind is "Let's pick up the carcass and take it on a road trip."

  • No? Maybe only if you're a high school wrestler from North Dakota.

On the way to the finals of a tournament, a busload of wrestlers came across a "dead" raccoon. For reasons that are unclear, they thought it would be a good idea to pick up the raccoon carcass and take it with them. They put it in the storage area of their bus and continued on their way.

Not only did that group of students display some questionable judgment by picking up the carcass, they also failed to notice that their "dead" raccoon was not actually dead. When they arrived at the tournament, the raccoon got up and ran away.

So, not particularly bright (or observant), but maybe not that big of a deal. Raccoons are important rabies vectors and a raccoon that allows itself to be loaded onto a bus by a bunch of high school students, and then later runs away, must be considered potentially rabid since you can't prove otherwise. However, you don't get exposed to rabies just by riding in the same bus as a napping raccoon. You have to have close contact with it (e.g. bite that breaks the skin, exposure of an open scratch/wound or mucous membrane (nose, mouth, eyes) to raccoon saliva).

In this case, however, the team was removed from the tournament when officials found out "they had been in contact with the wild animal and feared they may have contracted rabies."  This makes no sense.

  • If they were exposed, they'd pose no risk to anyone else at that point. You don't become immediately infectious after exposure. These students could not have transmitted the virus to other competitors.
  • There was no evidence that they were actually exposed. No one was bitten or scratched.

Carrington school superintendent Brian Duchscherer said: "Once we found out, we didn't know if there was a potential of spreading anything or if the raccoon had rabies or not but we decided to bring our kids home." I would hope that a quick call to public health would have put those concerns to rest. Either they didn't bother to try to get good information or they got bad advice.

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Dakota Scribe - February 8, 2011 1:48 PM

Reports I've heard is that several wrestlers DID have close contact with the raccoon. They had surrounded it and beat it with rocks until they (apparently wrongly) thought it was dead. They then loaded it into the cargo area of the bus, with their hands.

The superintendent didn't know if there had been exposure or to what extent. The ONLY responsible thing to do, which is what he did, is to err on the side of caution.

In any case, the "rabid or not?" part of the story misses the point. Why would the head coach, who was was driving the bus, bring a wild animal (dead or alive)on board? That is very poor judgment. What happens now is up to the school officials. They have done exactly what they should have done up to this point. Your second-guessing of their actions is rude and inappropriate.

Scott Weese - February 8, 2011 1:56 PM

Sorry, but you don't understand the issues with rabies exposure. It wouldn't matter if the raccoon had bitten them. They posed no risk to others. Determining whether there has been exposure is critical for management of people in contact with the raccoon...whether or not they need treatment. There's no need for quarantine or any other restriction of activities of someone who's been exposed.


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