According to the Associated Press on Tuesday, a grandmother was attacked by a pack of raccoons she was attempting to shoo from her yard. Gretchen Whitted, 74, of Lakeland, Florida was hospitalized after five vicious raccoons surrounded her, and when she fell, they mauled her. Grady Judd, Polk County Sheriff said, “We’re not talking about a lot of little bites here. She was filleted.”
A neighbor heard Whitted’s pleas for help and found her covered in blood. Whitted was hospitalized and received dozens of sutures and staples. She has also been treated for rabies. Animal control officers have been searching for the gang of raccoons and even flooded drains to flush them out. They hope to catch them in baited traps. Officials say they doubt that the animals were infected by rabies.
In a separate incident on Monday, Kelly Ann Walz, 37, was found dead at her home in rural Ross Township, Pennsylvania, about twenty miles away from Allentown. Walz and her husband Michael had been keeping several wild animals, including a lion, cougar, jaguar, tiger, leopard and the black bear, on their property without a current valid license.
According to Fox News, Pennsylvania Game Commission investigators said that Michael Walz, who had been licensed since 1994, had permits to keep, sell and display exotic animals, but those permits expired in June of 2008. The state’s most recent inspection in 2007 did not reveal any problems. According to commission spokesman, Jerry Feaser, the expired permit would have resulted in the removal of the animals from Walz’s property.
On Sunday, Kelly Ann Walz entered the black bear’s steel and concrete cage in order to clean the cage. In an attempt to distract the bear, she threw a shovelful of dog food to the other side of the cage. When the bear turned on Walz and attacked her, her children saw what was happening and called for help. A neighbor of the Walz’s, Scott Castone, told the Associated Press, “She loved the animals and took care of them.” Castone shot and killed the bear while it was atop Walz.
As wild animals, such as raccoons, have more regular contact with humans in urban areas, their reactions to contact with humans is not always predictable. According to scientists, a group of raccoons attacking humans is rare, but documented attacks can be found. Most wildlife experts caution feeding wild animals to prevent them from becoming intrusive. As seen in the Walz case, even people who have worked with wild animals for many years can be killed or maimed when those animals attack. It is always wise to remember that, while wild animals might seem adorable, they remain wild and unpredictable.