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Arizona Game and Fish responds to inaccuracies in reporting of raccoon story
Feb. 24, 2012
Don’t believe everything you read in the blogosphere
Several stories appeared in media outlets and the blogosphere over the past two days regarding a Bullhead City man who was cited by Arizona Game and Fish Department officers for unlawful possession of a raccoon. Raccoons are considered restricted live wildlife in Arizona, and possessing one requires a special wildlife holding permit for a legitimate and legal public purpose.
Some of the stories we have seen to date initially contained inaccurate or misleading information:
•At least one story mistakenly suggested that the individual, Mr. Stan Morris, was jailed because he possessed the raccoon. That is not true. Mr. Morris was jailed because he had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant on a prior, unrelated matter. The facts are that a Bullhead City police officer observed Mr. Morris walking down the street with the raccoon on his shoulder and called Game and Fish to report it. Game and Fish officers looked into the matter and obtained a search warrant. In the process of doing a standard law enforcement check, they discovered that there was an outstanding misdemeanor warrant for Mr. Morris. He received a citation by Game and Fish for the unlawful possession of the raccoon, but was jailed for the outstanding warrant (he has since been released).
•At least one story mistakenly suggested that the raccoon “is likely to be put to death by state wildlife authorities.” That is not accurate. In this instance, the raccoon was confiscated, had its health assessed, and is being held as evidence pending adjudication of the case. Once that occurs, Game and Fish will contact legally permitted zoos and wildlife conservation education facilities to try to place the animal. Euthanization would only be considered if the animal had a severe health condition where euthanization would be more humane than letting it suffer.
•Some of the news and blog stories didn’t go into the rationale for why raccoons are listed as restricted live wildlife and why possessing them requires a special permit. We feel it’s important for the public to know this information. Wild animals are unpredictable and some can be potentially dangerous. They have instincts that can be dangerous to humans, even if at times in captivity they seem comfortable around people. Another concern is the potential wildlife have for carrying disease. The ability for an entity to obtain a wildlife holding permit for a legitimate and legal public purpose is contingent on a number of factors to ensure that the animal has adequate facilities and can be properly cared for, keeping in mind the welfare of the animal and the safety of the public. Permits are not issued for individuals to hold native wildlife as personal pets.
•A couple of stories stated that Mr. Morris saved the raccoon from drowning in the Colorado River. Although this action, if true, was an understandable act of compassion, his subsequent course of action in keeping the animal will most likely result in it spending the rest of its life in captivity. Other courses of action he could have taken would have been to immediately release the animal, or to call the Arizona Game and Fish Department to provide any necessary medical care and do an assessment on whether the raccoon could be released into the wild or placed in a qualified facility. By keeping the raccoon, Mr. Morris’s action prevented it from living out the natural cycle of its life, likely condemning it to a life in captivity. Wildlife should be kept wild.
For more information on living with wildlife, visit http://www.azgfd.gov/urbanwildlife.