Hairless raccoon found in Vero Beach to be relocated to Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter

VERO BEACH — It's not a chupacabra, the legendary creature reported to suck blood from the necks of goats and other farm animals in the Caribbean. Nor is it scary — just scared.

The critter found Friday south of the 17th Street and Indian River Boulevard intersection does look like something dropped out of a spaceship, so maybe it's appropriate that it landed on Jupiter — that is, at the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter.

It's a hairless raccoon, said officials at the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County. Hardly recognizable without the trademark mask and ringed tail, the creature's species was identified by teeth, snout and body posture.

"This is not mange," said Ilka Daniel, Humane Society director of animal protective services, referring to its baldness. "It would be like a mutant.

"When I Googled (hairless raccoon), it popped up that the same thing had been caught in Kentucky and Oklahoma."

Daniel said what also popped up were sites that said these creatures might explain sightings of the chupacabra, which scientists do not acknowledge exists.

This trash can bandit also sports a big scar down the right side of its head. Daniel said this is common among raccoons, which fight over food and mates. Fur usually hides the scars.

City sanitation workers found him — "Yes, it's a boy," Daniel said — Friday morning, trapped in a garbage bin at an office complex in the 1600 block of Indian River Boulevard. Dispatched to the scene, Vero Beach Police Officer John Grenzenbach said the animal was sitting in the back of the bin, nonaggressive and looking frightened. He called animal control and the Humane Society.

"The animal isn't showing any signs of disease," Daniel reported.

Nevertheless, because rabies virus — fatal to humans — resides in Florida's raccoons, it is unlawful to relocate them. Leaving this one in an industrial trash bin wasn't an option, either.

So Humane Society rescuers started working the phones. Friday afternoon, they got permission to take him to the Busch sanctuary.

"If he checks out healthy, hopefully he'll be put on display," Daniel said. "They have pens that are close to natural habitat. Given the circumstances, I think it's the best outcome we could hope for him, and we're grateful for their help."

Most problems with wild animals are man-made, she added.

"The only thing that drives wildlife into our communities is a place to have babies, a place to live, food and water," Daniel said.

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