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Sick raccoon put down in South Wayne
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DARLINGTON - A Lafayette County Sheriff's deputy put down a raccoon believed to be rabid in South Wayne on Sunday.

"We're not sure the animal was rabid, but it was acting very sick, so we dispatched it," said Lafayette County Sheriff Reg Gill on Tuesday.

Gill said the animal was reportedly lying under a tree on East Grove Street in South Wayne, largely unmoving, for two days, leading the witness who reported the animal to assume the raccoon was rabid.

Animals infected with rabies typically display significant changes in behavior, beginning with heightened reactions to external stimuli - typically biting at anything nearby, which can transmit the virus to a new host - and ending with lack of motor coordination and paralysis. The host typically dies shortly thereafter, as the infection is untreatable once the host becomes symptomatic.

The sheriff department's protocol in dealing with potentially dangerous animals changes depending on the situation, Gill said.

In this situation, the responding deputy was able to kill the raccoon on the scene, but in a more populated or urban environment, the animal would have to be removed with a live trap to be dealt with elsewhere.

Gill said rabid or sick animals - which have included cats, possums and skunks - are reported "from time to time," but are not frequent. Gill said the department assisted Cuba City with several sick skunks several months ago, but no other incidents have been reported recently.

Anyone who witnesses an animal behaving unusually should not approach the animal, but instead should contact law enforcement or animal control.