When a vacationing family found and adopted a 3-week-old baby raccoon at Wexford Plantation on Hilton Head Island, S. Carolina earlier this spring, everyone they showed it to agreed it was adorable.
Friends and neighbors back home in Okatie, S.C. held and cuddled the precious little critter, hand-feeding it, touching its nose and tongue—even kissing it.
What could possibly go wrong?
When it was all over, more than 35 people and 20 pets were part of an extensive S. Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control investigation.
Of those exposed to the rabid animal, 24 received rabies vaccinations and follow-up prevention shots as a result of their affectionate actions toward the baby raccoon. The remaining 12 did not need treatment because they did not touch the animal or come in contact with its saliva, said DHEC spokeswoman Clair Boatwright.
“There was a lot of affectionate handling, kissing it and feeding it,” Boatwright told the Island Packet newspaper. “Part of that is it was three weeks old, and they inserted fingers into the raccoon’s mouth. Saliva is one way that rabies spreads.”
In the end, the coon kissing cost the taxpayers of the state of South Carolina more than $40K.
According to the DHEC, the rabies vaccines and prevention shots cost about $1,000 per person, totaling $36,677.75. With investigation costs and personnel time, the ending tally was a whopping $43,028.50.
That’s one costly coon, eh?
Obviously, there’s an important lesson to be learned from the unfortunate occurrence.
Every year, state wildlife agencies send out press releases advising folks not to adopt young wild animals that appear to be abandoned or in need of care.
That’s good advice.
Oh, and don’t kiss them, either.