CANTON - A four-legged critter that paid a visit to Canton Central School on Friday afternoon was captured and whisked away just before students departed for the day.
A raccoon was sighted by students and staff at about 1:45 p.m. outdoors near the main entrance doors to McKenney Middle School. School officials alerted Canton Animal Control Officer James E. Pipher, who sped to the scene.
School Superintendent William A. Gregory and other staff members cornered the raccoon before it was captured by Mr. Pipher in a noose-like device. Canton Village Patrolman Kevin Mousaw also assisted.
Although the animal wasnt acting strange or sickly, Mr. Gregory said he was concerned about students coming in contact with the animal as they were dismissed from the buildings. If the animal turned out to have rabies, those who had contact might have to undergo a series of anti-rabies vaccinations.
I was worried about getting him out of there before all the students came out for the buses, Mr. Gregory said. It looked like he (the raccoon) was just out sunning himself. He was sitting there licking his paws.
Several students were watching from classroom windows as the men tried to corner the raccoon. Some cheered when they saw the animal was captured, but not killed.
Mr. Pipher said he did not shoot the raccoon because it showed no signs of having rabies, such as stumbling over, acting lethargic or frothing at the mouth. Also, it did not come in contact with any one.
You can tell when theyre sick. This was a healthy raccoon,Mr. Pipher said. He estimated it was about 1 ½ years old.
Mr. Pipher contacted the St. Lawrence County Health Department and assured health officials the animal did not have any human contact. They advised him to release the animal on state land. He dropped the raccoon on state land near the Indian Creek Nature Center, Rensselaer Falls.
In 2012, the countys public health department recorded five rabid raccoons.
Mr. Pipher said the stretch of unseasonable warm weather earlier this month had caused some animals to come out of hibernation. In particular, hes received several calls about skunks roaming around when theyre usually holed up underground this time of year.
After large amounts of snow melted quickly, some skunks were flooded out of their holes, he said. When the temperatures dropped again, the holes froze over forcing the skunks to burrow new holes.
Raccoons usually hibernate in hollow parts of trees, but they may also come out looking for food when the weather gets warm, he said.
I think this raccoon just got confused. He made a mistake and stumbled out of the woods looking for something to eat, Mr. Pipher said. When it warms up, animals may think its time to wake up.