ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — In the first confirmed case of rabies on Mount Desert Island in 14 years, a dead raccoon found in Acadia tested positive for the disease. Another dead raccoon found at Schoodic is being tested.
According to park officials, the animal was near the restrooms at the parking lot at Sieur de Monts Spring and the Wild Gardens of Acadia. That area remains open to the public, but the park has posted signs reminding visitors not to approach or feed wildlife and to keep dogs on leashes.
On March 5, a visitor to the section of the park on the Schoodic Peninsula found a dead raccoon on the Alder Path. The animal has been sent to a National Park Service (NPS) wildlife veterinarian in Fort Collins, Colo., to be tested for rabies, according to Acadia spokesman John Kelly. He said the test results are expected March 10.
Rabies, which is nearly always fatal, is caused by a virus that is transmitted when an infected animal bites another animal or a person. In Maine, the animals that are most commonly infected are raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes.
The presence of the rabies virus in the raccoon found at Sieur de Monts was confirmed by the NPS veterinarian in Colorado. It is unknown how the animal contracted the disease.
With the exception of wildlife on national park property, animals in Maine that are suspected of having rabies are tested by either the Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory of the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention or the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services.
According to data compiled by those two agencies, there had been no confirmed cases of rabies on Mount Desert Island since 2002, when a rabid fox found in Bar Harbor tested positive for the disease. Bar Harbor had one confirmed case of rabies in 2000 and one in 2001. In both cases, the rabid animals were raccoons.
Anyone who encounters a wild animal in Acadia that appears sick, aggressive or uncoordinated is urged to call the park’s dispatch office at 288-8791. Local law enforcement agencies should be notified of any such animals seen outside the park.