This is one of the more popular ones. Sadly it has been responsible for a lot of problems and
has caused much needless paranoia. But first, let me say that I do acknowledge that they are one
of many species of animal that is susceptible to it and yes there are cases of them having
it. I'm not saying that they do not get it, which would be a lie. The truth though, is that not
all of them have rabies. As wild animals for the most part , is inevitable that if there were
an outbreak of the disease somewhere that at least some of them would come into contact with a diseased
animal and contract it. It is important to remember that rabies is a disease and that in order to be
infected with it, an animal must contract it from another animal. It cannot just spontaneously
acquire it by itself. To suggest that such an occurrence is possible is preposterous and just plain er,
It would seem that the main reason that people think this, is because of the media. If even a single case' of raccoon rabies is found the people panic, and often extreme measures are taken. These measures can include the ever popular "cure the disease by killing the patient" mentality of killing every single raccoon within a distance of several kilometres. Often the media will get wind of the situation and will broadcast the story of a single case of raccoon rabies like it's a major epidemic. Since we normally don't see pictures and videos of normal healthy raccoon on the news we are led to believe that since all they show us are the rabies infected ones, we are led to believe that all of them have it. It's similar to the way racial hatred is spread. if the only people of a particular nationality,race,religion etc. that we ever see are the ones that commit crimes we are led to believe they all are like this. The exact same thing is happening with raccoons and rabies. The truth is that a single case in a population of thousands is not an epidemic. Think of it this way, if rabies in raccoons was a normal everyday thing, then why all the attention to a single case of it? All the attention a single case gets further proves that it is far more rare of a disease then we are led to believe. Yes, since it is contagious it is something to be aware of, but certainly not something to panic about. Just because one gets it does not mean that many others will get it as well. Firstly there is apparently only a short amount of time that an infected animal can spread the disease, and this is normally when the disease has progressed enough that it the animal will show signs of it. An animal displaying signs of rabies will generally be avoided by others.
This does not mean however that just because an animal (be it a raccoon , skunk , dog cat or whatever) that appears to be healthy and does not seem to be infected is not. There are rare cases where rabies can be spread without the animal showing symptoms. As usually the best thing you can do about this is still take normal precautions to be "safe". When you encounter a wild animal you should never touch it. There are any number of diseases that it may have an be immune to that you can be infected with and die from, and just the same you may be carrying a disease you're immune to that can infect and kill it. Also if it does bite you, then to be safe the authorities must kill it to see if it has rabies or not (this done so they know if they need to give you the shots to get rid of it). The only way to detect rabies is by doing a test on the brain. As you can see it just is not worth the risk to you or the animal to attempt to touch it. Also remember that there is no cure for rabies. the sots you get are like an emergency vaccine. Since it has a long incubation period, this will be done in hope that by the time it "activates" the vaccine will have made you immune to it.
Action is however being taken to prevent outbreaks of it. For many years now local organizations have taken to making oral vaccines that are placed in bait and placed in areas where the target species is. The campaigns have had excellent success and often 95% of more of the animal population gets it. However this doesent mean that you still should not be cautious , as stated above, you should still never touch a wild Raccoon , Skunk , squirrel or whatever for both yours and it's safety. As with many human diseases prevention and common sense are the keys to stopping rabies from spreading. Always make sure to get your dogs and cats vaccinated and if you are in a carrier field in which you will be handling wild animals then there is a rabies vaccine for humans, so make sure to get it.
This is another one that many people insist is true, but it simply isn't. In captivity they have
been observed to wash food in water that is given to them prior to eating it. At first it would appear
that they do indeed wash food before eating it. However what it is believed that they are doing is
mimicking wild behaviour. In the wild the majority of their food is acquired from streams and rivers. Much
of this food is frogs , cradads , crayfish and fish etc. Since they must put their paws into the water
to get these is it believed that dipping food in water is simply done out of habit to make the food they
eat in captivity feel more natural. In the wild if they find food out of the wild such as berries or handouts
from humans such as corn, they will eat it without doing any dipping. Some people have theorized that
they dip because they have no saliva glands and must wet it to digest it properly, this is not true.
Other have guessed that they wet it as if it is wet it is easier to "feel it" so they know exactly
what is it. This stemmed from the knowledge that their sense of touch (tactile) is their strongest.
This also appears to be untrue.
So all in all, the "They wash their food before eating it" is simply done out of habit, as their used to getting food from the water in the wild.
This likely stems from the rumor that they all have rabies. Since associate rabies is known to
cause an animal to be (at least appear to be) vicious, we think that since they all have rabies
they are all vicious. Now I'm not saying they are all kittens,
in the wild they have to be strong to survive, and to be strong you have to be tough. But
this doesen't mean that they are all vicious. Many people who feed them nightly will confirm as to
how tame they can get (which isn't that great as a wild animal that is tame and trusting can
end up making itself very vulnerable to harm).
So truth is that if a raccoon is vicious and is not caused by an illness, then it is vicious because the condition is lives under are less then ideal and it has to be that way to survive. To picture this from a human perspective picture the demeanour of a person living in an ideal, almost paradise situation to one who has been "in the wild" his/her whole life. I'm sure the wildman/woman would seem like a savage compared to the person living in luxery.