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A car pulls over as a raccoon staggers across Waverly Road. When sick, the animals lose their fear of humans.

Safety: POA council wants government to aid with sick wildlife

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Concern among residents about an increasing number of sick raccoons has the Waccamaw Neck Council of Property Owners looking for help from the state or county. “When you raise the question, there’s a chuckle. It’s not funny,” said Bob Hesterfer, a POA council member and president of the property owners association at Ricefields.

There have been six incidents there in recent weeks. One woman opened her front door to find a sick raccoon on her porch, Hesterfer said.

He talked with the sheriff’s office and the state Department of Natural Resources. Assistant Sheriff Carter Weaver told him he agreed it is a problem, but said the animal control officers only deal with dogs. The state Department of Natural Resources told him raccoons are an issue for private pest control companies.

“There’s an epidemic of parvo going around,” said Larry Saunders, a partner in Nuisance Wildlife Specialty of Conway. The company has worked with Waccamaw Management and the town of Pawleys Island. “Since the storm went through, I’ve had over 200 phone calls.”

Parvovirus is just one of a variety of diseases that affect raccoons and can make them appear lethargic and unafraid of humans. “A lot of people think it’s rabies,” Saunders said. “They’re just dying off left and right.” People who encounter the nocturnal animals during the daytime should leave them alone, he added.

Dogs that are handled by the sheriff’s office are taken to St. Frances Animal Center. For officers to transport wild animals would risk infecting other animals at St. Francis. “We’re not going to do that,” Weaver said.

The POA council, comprised of over 50 associations, will recommend the sheriff’s office add wild animals to its services. The only way to deal with the sick raccoons is to put them down, Saunders said. That’s a service Weaver doesn’t think the sheriff’s office should provide. Natural Resources is better equipped to deal with that issue, he said. “There needs to be a conversation with the state and the county,” Weaver said.

Saunders said people who call the sheriff’s office about raccoons are usually referred to him. “I’ve been working with them for years,” he said.

That’s fine for private property, but Hesterfer is concerned about public spaces. He likens the issue to the debate over debris removal after the storm. The county’s contractor wouldn’t pick up debris from neighborhoods such as Ricefields that have private streets because the work wasn’t eligible for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “It’s not only public health, it’s public safety,” Hesterfer said. “What is the role of government?”

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