UTAH – Wildlife officials are warning people against keeping wild animals as pets after a 5-year-old boy from Uintah County was badly scratched by a family’s pet raccoon.
According to the Utah Division Wildlife Resources, the boy had to undergo surgery as a result of the scratches he suffered on Dec. 11.
Because of the incident, DWR is cautioning the public about the dangers and legalities of trying to keep a wild animal as a pet.
It is illegal to possess wildlife without proper permits.
Some wild animals are not protected under Utah state law, meaning you do not have to possess a valid hunting or trapping license to harvest them, according to a statement released by DWR. However, wild animals, like raccoons and coyotes, require a state-issued permit from the Utah Department of Agriculture in order to house them in captivity.
Raccoons, coyotes, striped skunks and the red fox are considered non-protected wildlife in the state of Utah and can be seized without a valid permit.
“It’s important to protect the health, welfare and safety of the public, as well as other terrestrial wildlife,” Tonay Kieffer-Selby, DWR Outreach Manager, said in a statement. “We do not want the public to avoid supporting wildlife, but we do want people to do it legally and safely.”
Raccoons may carry diseases such as rabies, canine distemper, raccoon parvoviral enteritis and infectious canine hepatitis.
“If you do experience a suspicious bite, seek medical attention; local health care providers are educated on how to handle these situations,” Cynthia Mattinson with the Tri-County Health Department said.
For more tips about how to safely live with wildlife, visit the Wild Aware Utah website.