Halifax resident recovering after being attacked by raccoon in backyard

·3 min read
Grace Murphy said the doctor counted 16 puncture wounds on her legs and hand. (Grace Murphy - image credit)
Grace Murphy said the doctor counted 16 puncture wounds on her legs and hand. (Grace Murphy - image credit)

A Halifax resident is recovering from a raccoon attack over the weekend that left her with eight bites and several scratches on her hand and legs.

Grace Murphy said the animal lunged at her with little warning when she was about to walk back into her house at around 8:30 p.m. AT on Saturday. The raccoon was hiding under an air conditioning unit near the stairs.

"I didn't even see it until it was on me, pretty much," Murphy told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon on Monday. "It got on my leg and was biting down and like, holding, basically."

She started screaming and tried to kick the animal off of her. When that didn't work, she reached down to grab the back of the raccoon's neck.

"And then it turned around and it bit my thumb and also wouldn't get off," Murphy said.

Hear Grace Murphy describe the attack

Murphy said she shook it off and moved away, hoping the animal would take its cue to leave. Instead, it lunged at her a third time, backing her into a fence.

By then, a neighbour had heard her screams and rushed to help.

"It was actually coming at me for a fourth time when my neighbour picked up a rock and threw it and hit it," Murphy said, adding that the raccoon ran away after that.

She estimates the attack lasted a minute or two, but said it felt much longer.

"I actually have no idea how I would have gotten away if my neighbour hadn't shown up because it had me backed into a corner at that point and it was coming so fast and so frequently," she said.

Raccoon likely protecting babies, says DNR

Butch Galvez, a wildlife technician with the provincial Department of Natural Resources, said a few weeks ago, a raccoon with four babies was spotted next door. It's likely the same raccoon that attacked Murphy, he said.

"She's been moving her babies around the neighbourhood ... You get in between a mother raccoon when she's moving her young and she may be protective," Galvez said.

The department investigated the attack and is still looking for the raccoon, but Galvez said it may be difficult to track down given the number of raccoons that live in that part of the city.

Photo courtesy of Andy Turnbull
Photo courtesy of Andy Turnbull

Residents have been told to keep an eye out, check under their decks and in their sheds and other dark places around their houses.

Galvez said his department typically investigates one raccoon incident every summer, but not all are this violent.

"Fortunately it's very rare, but the few cases that I've seen, the individuals had to fight back fairly aggressively to stop the attack," he said.

Received rabies vaccine

Murphy's neighbour drove her to the hospital after the attack and the next day she received the first round of the rabies vaccine.

Galvez said so far the Department of Natural Resources hasn't detected rabies in Nova Scotia raccoons, but it's been found in raccoons in New Brunswick and southern Ontario.

On average, the department tests about four to five raccoons in Halifax a year for rabies alone, Galvez said. But during years where other diseases — like distemper — are circulating, they can test upward of 100 raccoons.

If the department finds the raccoon that injured Murphy, it will be euthanized and tested, Galvez said.

Murphy said even though she's in pain and having trouble walking, she doesn't blame the raccoon.

"I'm just, you know, making my parents be all nice to me and bring me food and hugs," she chuckled, "just milking it because it's not every day you get attacked by a raccoon out of nowhere."

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