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  #1  
Old 05-11-2007, 11:28 AM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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Lime on a carcass: Straight Dope?

I'm dealing with a small raccoon rabies epidemic at my house. There is a dead raccoon in my next door neighbors back yard, and they are currently away for a few weeks. It stinks. This morning, I remembered that I had a 10 pound bag of "agricultural lime" in my shed, so I opened the bag and dumped the contents onto the carcass.
  • Does/will this work?
  • How?
  • How long before gentle breezes stop wafting foul aroma?
  • Anything else I can do (other than move the carcass)?

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 05-11-2007, 11:50 AM
Ike Witt Ike Witt is offline
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Bottom line is lime is a pretty strong base.

Wiki entry.

I think that the best idea is to bury the carcass and put the lime on it before covering it with the dirt.

Last edited by Ike Witt; 05-11-2007 at 11:51 AM.. Reason: added advice.
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  #3  
Old 05-11-2007, 11:57 AM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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I woulda buried it if I wasn't already late for work. My main concern at this point is how bad the odor will be if I decide to throw something on the grill this weekend.
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  #4  
Old 05-11-2007, 12:02 PM
nevermore nevermore is offline
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I'm going to ask the obvious question:

can't you call Animal Control?

apologies if you live in a rural area.
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  #5  
Old 05-11-2007, 12:17 PM
Billdo Billdo is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vetbridge
I woulda buried it if I wasn't already late for work. My main concern at this point is how bad the odor will be if I decide to throw something on the grill this weekend.
My advice would be to avoid grilling the dead, rabid racoon.
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  #6  
Old 05-11-2007, 12:21 PM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nevermore
I'm going to ask the obvious question:

can't you call Animal Control?

apologies if you live in a rural area.
Yep, rural area without an animal control contract (some rural areas do contract with a private individual/company for this service). I submitted the first coon's head to the county dept of health for statistical purposes. This weekend I will set some box traps and relocate the apparently healthy animals and euthanize the sick ones (with the county's blessing).
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  #7  
Old 05-11-2007, 12:24 PM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Billdo
My advice would be to avoid grilling the dead, rabid racoon.
hehe. Advice heeded.
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  #8  
Old 05-11-2007, 12:30 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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While I was researching decaying corpses (don't ask) I kept coming across the assertion that "it's a common myth that lime with eat away corpses. It doesn't. In fact, it actually preserves the remains." Apparently a lot of amateur murderers dump lime on the bodies of their victims, hoping this will destroy the evidence of their guilt. They are, however, doing the CSI teams a perverse favor. This is why you should leave things to the professionals.

I've never heard anything that suggests that lime "deodorizes" decaying bodies, and I don't know how it would work. If it did, you'd think they would use it at trash dumps. But they don't -- they use stuff that's heavy with cinnamon oil to mask putrefying odors.
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  #9  
Old 05-11-2007, 12:34 PM
Malacandra Malacandra is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adam yax
Bottom line is lime is a pretty strong base.

Wiki entry.

I think that the best idea is to bury the carcass and put the lime on it before covering it with the dirt.
Just above the bottom line is its eagerness to suck up water and become the hydroxide, I should say - so it should dessicate the shit out of anything protoplasmic, rendering what's left not too liable to rot in a smelly and revolting manner.
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  #10  
Old 05-11-2007, 12:35 PM
Bewildebeest Bewildebeest is offline
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It won't help. You want quick lime to disolve the body. Agricultural lime will help dessicate and preserve it,... Or in your case, make it stink longer.
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  #11  
Old 05-11-2007, 12:41 PM
CaerieD CaerieD is offline
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The Wikipedia article linked to in this thread does mention that it's used to hide the smell of decomposition, likely because it's a dehydrating agent. There's no cite for that claim, though, and so it still remains unconfirmed.
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  #12  
Old 05-11-2007, 12:49 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Quote:
It won't help. You want quick lime to disolve the body. Agricultural lime will help dessicate and preserve it,... Or in your case, make it stink longer.
You see, this is what the sources I came across said was a myth -- despite the fact that it's "common knowledge" that quicklime dissolves bodies, the forenasics texts I consulted say the opposite is true.

A quick search turned up the following, which recommends quicklime as a preservative (p. 13)

http://www.paho.org/english/dd/ped/D...esBook-ch2.pdf
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  #13  
Old 05-11-2007, 01:02 PM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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Well, thanks for all the answers so far.

You are all invited over this weekend for steaks on the grill.

How many should I buy?
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  #14  
Old 05-11-2007, 01:08 PM
Baldwin Baldwin is offline
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If you think the dead raccoon might have been rabid, does it need to be burned or something? I'd call the County Health Dept. to ask about the protocol for that. Will you get in trouble if you go ahead and make a little bonfire?

Thanks for the invite! Wouldn't it be a surprise if we all showed?
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  #15  
Old 05-11-2007, 01:09 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Quote:
You are all invited over this weekend for steaks on the grill.

How many should I buy?
How about lime-marinated chicken, instead.

With limeade.
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  #16  
Old 05-11-2007, 01:14 PM
Rube E. Tewesday Rube E. Tewesday is offline
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When I was a kid on the farm, the township road crew would bury the bodies of rabid cattle for us. Never asked them about anything smaller.
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  #17  
Old 05-11-2007, 01:23 PM
Turek Turek is offline
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Originally Posted by vetbridge
How many should I buy?
All of them.
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  #18  
Old 05-11-2007, 01:23 PM
wevets wevets is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham
I've never heard anything that suggests that lime "deodorizes" decaying bodies, and I don't know how it would work. If it did, you'd think they would use it at trash dumps. But they don't -- they use stuff that's heavy with cinnamon oil to mask putrefying odors.
Most of the smell from corpses comes from the decomposition of those corpses. If you treat the specimen with lime, you will inhibit decomposition (although there is some debate on whether lime is actually a reliable material to do this - see this PDF), thus both preserving the specimen and reducing the odor.

[moving into speculation]
A reason I would imagine that trash dumps use cinnamon oil instead of lime is that they want things to decompose, but don't want to deal with the associated smell - and that lime can cause chemical burns, and is a strong skin and eye irritant, making cinnamon oil preferable. MSDS for lime here.
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  #19  
Old 05-11-2007, 01:29 PM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baldwin
If you think the dead raccoon might have been rabid, does it need to be burned or something? I'd call the County Health Dept. to ask about the protocol for that. Will you get in trouble if you go ahead and make a little bonfire?

Thanks for the invite! Wouldn't it be a surprise if we all showed?
The dead raccoon was rabid. I do some veterinary work for the department o' health, so after the first confirmed case I sent, they accepted my word on the next few.

In my area raccoon rabies is very common (foxes, skunks, bats are the other common species). It seems population numbers are tied to the virus. As the population swells, the virus affects more and more animals, effectively decreasing the population.

The nice thing about living in my (rural) area is that I can pretty much have any size bonfire I want. I suppose I could toss the coon onto the fire. The thing is, I don't mind moving around carcasses that are fresh, but liquification necrosis grosses me out.
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  #20  
Old 05-11-2007, 01:30 PM
Sapo Sapo is offline
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FWIW, the "authorities" (I have no idea which office does this, only seen the results) over here (in PR) do cover dead animals with lime. They then take forever to disappear.
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  #21  
Old 05-11-2007, 01:31 PM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baldwin
Thanks for the invite! Wouldn't it be a surprise if we all showed?
A pleasant surprise, but a surprise nonetheless. I made a silly offer in a bar late one night. One of the people (one of maybe 75) showed up. He was embarrassed being the only one to come, but we had a nice evening.
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  #22  
Old 05-11-2007, 01:38 PM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sapo
FWIW, the "authorities" (I have no idea which office does this, only seen the results) over here (in PR) do cover dead animals with lime. They then take forever to disappear.
The state game commission does this in Pennsylvania as well with dead deer, but I always thought the idea was that the dead animal would evaporate away overnight. Guess not.
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  #23  
Old 05-11-2007, 01:50 PM
yabob yabob is offline
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Let's ask Harry:

You put de lime on de carcass, and you a dig a big pit
You put de lime on de carcass, an' you won't be smellin' it
You put de lime on de carcass, an' you put it in de ground
You put de lime on de carcass, an' call me in the mooooorning ...
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  #24  
Old 05-11-2007, 01:50 PM
CaerieD CaerieD is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vetbridge
The dead raccoon was rabid. I do some veterinary work for the department o' health, so after the first confirmed case I sent, they accepted my word on the next few.

In my area raccoon rabies is very common (foxes, skunks, bats are the other common species). It seems population numbers are tied to the virus. As the population swells, the virus affects more and more animals, effectively decreasing the population.

The nice thing about living in my (rural) area is that I can pretty much have any size bonfire I want. I suppose I could toss the coon onto the fire. The thing is, I don't mind moving around carcasses that are fresh, but liquification necrosis grosses me out.
I can sympathize with not wanting to move it when it's at that stage. I've both been there and done that and it's a truly...remarkable experience. It's unfortunate that it's in the neighbor's yard, since they likely wouldn't appreciate to discover you'd built a bonfire on top of the corpse, wherever it happened to be. If it were in my yard that's likely what I'd do so I didn't have to move it, but having it on someone else's property makes it a bit tricky.

The last time I had to move the drippy dead I used a shovel, a cardboard box, and my brother. Even so, when we pried it off the ground and onto the cardboard the smell was absolutely horrific. It did get it moved and disposed of, though, at least. Good luck.
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  #25  
Old 05-11-2007, 02:00 PM
Ike Witt Ike Witt is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vetbridge
but I always thought the idea was that the dead animal would evaporate away overnight.
You need that stuff they used in the movie Logan's Run. Two quick passes over the body and not so much as a stain is left over.
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  #26  
Old 05-11-2007, 02:11 PM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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Originally Posted by CaerieD
they likely wouldn't appreciate to discover you'd built a bonfire on top of the corpse, wherever it happened to be. If it were in my yard that's likely what I'd do so I didn't have to move it, but having it on someone else's property makes it a bit tricky.
The neighbors are away, and they just recently bought the property from the bank after a default. The backyard is about an acre that hasn't been cared for in two years. I'd build a small fire in a heartbeat, but I'd wind up having to get a bunch of help to control the blaze.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CaerieD
The last time I had to move the drippy dead I used a shovel, a cardboard box, and my brother. Even so, when we pried it off the ground and onto the cardboard the smell was absolutely horrific. It did get it moved and disposed of, though, at least. Good luck.
That's what I'll go do tonight after work. I'll prolly be retching the entire time, and if anything drips onto me I'll wind up self-amputating the body part that gets slimed. I need a puking smiley. Oh, and when does your brother get off of work?
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  #27  
Old 05-11-2007, 02:14 PM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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Beware, some TMI material here

Obviously vetbridge needs to do what medical examiners do with decomposing bodies - and put the raccoon in his freezer until it's time to do the post.

One time on the forensic service I helped do an autopsy on someone who had, um, been dead for quite awhile. The M.E. had some gunk to slosh on the body which killed maggots (they can be quite distracting). Apparently this stuff is also used in the mortuary trade, so you could ask either your friendly neighborhood M.E. or mortician if they can spare a bottle, assuming it impedes decomposition as well.

And in related news, neighbors of this proposed farm can go back to grilling steaks in peace.
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  #28  
Old 05-11-2007, 03:07 PM
Jodi Jodi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Billdo
My advice would be to avoid grilling the dead, rabid racoon.
Advice like this is why you earn the big bucks, [i]Bill[/b].
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  #29  
Old 05-11-2007, 03:26 PM
Malacandra Malacandra is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham
How about lime-marinated chicken, instead.

With limeade.
And Key Lime Pie, don't forget.
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  #30  
Old 05-11-2007, 04:15 PM
SnakesCatLady SnakesCatLady is offline
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Originally Posted by Malacandra
And Key Lime Pie, don't forget.
I'll bring the margaritas!

vetbridge, you mentioned trapping and relocating healty 'coons. How do you determine if they are healthy? I have trapped a few racoons while in the business of trapping feral cats, and ended up relocating two of them so they wouldn't get shot by the man whose trash cans they were living out of. These were young fellas - and do you know I didn't even get a "thanks for the ride", let alone a couple of bucks for gas?

Seriously, I would like to know, because while we don't have a bad rabies problem here it is something I'm always on the lookout for. I'm vaccinated but...
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Old 05-11-2007, 07:40 PM
Billdo Billdo is online now
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Originally Posted by Jodi
Advice like this is why you earn the big bucks, Bill.
I am but a lowly foot soldier in the battle against ignorance. If I can prevent just one person from grilling a rabid raccoon, I've done my duty for the day.
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  #32  
Old 05-11-2007, 07:55 PM
SailedTheOceanBlue SailedTheOceanBlue is offline
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Originally Posted by Rube E. Tewesday
When I was a kid on the farm, the township road crew would bury the bodies of rabid cattle for us.
Rabid cattle?

That's a Far Side panel waiting to happen.
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  #33  
Old 05-11-2007, 07:55 PM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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A temporary solution for the smell, next time you have a party, put a container like a bucket upside down over it and push the rim into the ground. You should be able to finish the cookout without everybody retching. A racoon would take some thing larger, but you get the idea.

They used to burn sulfer for plagues, but I think sulfer would ruin the cookout too. Add a little wax to the burning sulfer and you get rotten egg stink.
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  #34  
Old 05-12-2007, 05:36 PM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SnakesCatLady
I'll bring the margaritas!

vetbridge, you mentioned trapping and relocating healty 'coons. How do you determine if they are healthy? I have trapped a few racoons while in the business of trapping feral cats, and ended up relocating two of them so they wouldn't get shot by the man whose trash cans they were living out of. These were young fellas - and do you know I didn't even get a "thanks for the ride", let alone a couple of bucks for gas?

Seriously, I would like to know, because while we don't have a bad rabies problem here it is something I'm always on the lookout for. I'm vaccinated but...
Well, I am vaccinated also so I don't mind some slight risk. I trap the coons, then use a fork to wedge them into one end of the trap. I inject them with a Ketamine/Xylazine mix, remove them and examine them. I vaccinate for rabies (extra label) and give an injection if Ivermectin. I return them to the trap and allow time for anesthesia recovery. They are released either at my office location, or at a friend's property.

I have castrated a few males, just because it is easy-peasy and helps keep the population in check. Oh, and although I am a little reckless, I do wear exam gloves when handling the animals and dose the anesthetic toward the high end of the range. I would rather have an anesthesia fatality then an angry half awake coon.
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  #35  
Old 05-12-2007, 05:52 PM
Rube E. Tewesday Rube E. Tewesday is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SailedTheOceanBlue
Rabid cattle?

That's a Far Side panel waiting to happen.
Heh, I suppose, but the reality is far from funny, horrible convulsions sometimes, brrr....

What normally happened would be that a rabid fox would go running through the herd, nipping the cattle, then in the fullness of time, rabies.

I don't think it happens as much anymore, at least in my parts, since the Ontario government introduced a pretty successful program to vaccinate foxes.
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  #36  
Old 05-12-2007, 06:15 PM
Tuckerfan Tuckerfan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham
While I was researching decaying corpses (don't ask) I kept coming across the assertion that "it's a common myth that lime with eat away corpses. It doesn't. In fact, it actually preserves the remains." Apparently a lot of amateur murderers dump lime on the bodies of their victims, hoping this will destroy the evidence of their guilt. They are, however, doing the CSI teams a perverse favor. This is why you should leave things to the professionals.

I've never heard anything that suggests that lime "deodorizes" decaying bodies, and I don't know how it would work. If it did, you'd think they would use it at trash dumps. But they don't -- they use stuff that's heavy with cinnamon oil to mask putrefying odors.
A Rose for Emily by William Faulker. In it, the husband of the town's crazy cat lady dies, and she just leaves the body in the bed, so the town's folk sprinkle lime all around the house to get rid of the odor. So people obviously believed it would work as a deodorizing agent.
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  #37  
Old 05-12-2007, 06:16 PM
Mama Zappa Mama Zappa is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vetbridge
Well, I am vaccinated also so I don't mind some slight risk. I trap the coons, then use a fork to wedge them into one end of the trap. I inject them with a Ketamine/Xylazine mix, remove them and examine them. I vaccinate for rabies (extra label) and give an injection if Ivermectin. I return them to the trap and allow time for anesthesia recovery. They are released either at my office location, or at a friend's property.
Following the trail this thread is following:
Do I understand that once you've been vaccinated for rabies (and are we talking about the same "I've been bitten by an unknown bat" vaccine everyone dreads?), there's some lasting protection? Do you have to get revaccinated every few years? Guess that makes sense in your line of work, you never know when a new client will bring in Rover who hasnt had his shots and *had* had a close encounter with, say, a raccoon....

And about 12 years ago, I arrived home midafternoon. As I drove down my street (townhouses), I saw a raccoon wandering down our street, and going up and down the front steps of one house after another. Without getting out of the car, I called Animal Control. The person at the other end of the phone assured me the critter was surely NOT rabid and that this indeed was normal behavior. Erm, to this day I still don't believe the person on the phone. Was that raccoon most likely rabid? (I gather they''ve got a preference for nighttime activities and the business of wandering up/down stairs, nowhere near garbage cans etc., in broad daylight sounds ***odd***).
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Old 05-12-2007, 07:51 PM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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Originally Posted by Mama Zappa
And about 12 years ago, I arrived home midafternoon. As I drove down my street (townhouses), I saw a raccoon wandering down our street, and going up and down the front steps of one house after another. Without getting out of the car, I called Animal Control. The person at the other end of the phone assured me the critter was surely NOT rabid and that this indeed was normal behavior. Erm, to this day I still don't believe the person on the phone. Was that raccoon most likely rabid? (I gather they''ve got a preference for nighttime activities and the business of wandering up/down stairs, nowhere near garbage cans etc., in broad daylight sounds ***odd***).
Very odd unless it was someone's pet.

Years ago I was working a solo night shift at a semiautomated radio station and had the wonderful job of checking tower readings some distance from the studio. As I was heading back a large raccoon waddled out of the brush and began following me. It joined me on the steps to the studio and wanted to come inside, which I discouraged (there was a brief temptation to let it in and then coax it into the station owner's office, but at that time I still wanted to keep the job).
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  #39  
Old 05-13-2007, 05:01 AM
Carson O'Genic Carson O'Genic is offline
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Vetbridge,

You've no doubt already done the dirty deed,but given the carcass location and your rural placement,it could be treated like compost.You would need to cover with carbonaceous material (wood chips,sawdust,straw,dead leaves ) which would pretty much stop the odor and in a year's time yield soil improvement.
Feral cats (or domestics who live out) use this method with their scat.
A carefully constructed compost pile of at least 1 cu.yd. can cook road kill groundhogs into but a few bones within a week.All bones gone in a month.

As for the behavior of raccoons none of the descriptions sounds unusual for either country or city animals.
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  #40  
Old 05-13-2007, 05:27 AM
Frylock Frylock is online now
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So apparently there are at least two governmental agencies putting lime on things? Someone should tell them it doesn't work!

Any chance someone could be made to listen?

-FrL-
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  #41  
Old 05-14-2007, 07:42 AM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mama Zappa
Following the trail this thread is following:
Do I understand that once you've been vaccinated for rabies (and are we talking about the same "I've been bitten by an unknown bat" vaccine everyone dreads?), there's some lasting protection?
In 1990 I received a series of vaccines for initial protection. It was the same series you would get after possible exposure, except my series lacked gamma globulin (one less injection). I had worsening reactions (severe headache, joint pain) with each injection. I had my titer checked seven years later and still had immunity.

Interestingly, in 1990 the vaccine cost around $100 a pop. It was chemically identical to the canine vaccine marketed by the company and wholesaling at the time for around .80 a dose. Same vaccine, different label.
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  #42  
Old 05-14-2007, 07:45 AM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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Final outcome:
I had some screened topsoil left over from a project involving pachysandra, so I dumped two wheelbarrows of dirt on top of the lime which is on top of the coon. No odor anymore. Oh, and we ate out, just in case.
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  #43  
Old 05-14-2007, 07:53 AM
Tuckerfan Tuckerfan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vetbridge
In 1990 I received a series of vaccines for initial protection. It was the same series you would get after possible exposure, except my series lacked gamma globulin (one less injection). I had worsening reactions (severe headache, joint pain) with each injection. I had my titer checked seven years later and still had immunity.

Interestingly, in 1990 the vaccine cost around $100 a pop. It was chemically identical to the canine vaccine marketed by the company and wholesaling at the time for around .80 a dose. Same vaccine, different label.
On This American Life, they featured a woman who was attacked by a rabid raccoon (it took 4 people to pull it off of her, IIRC) and she had a hell of a time getting the health dept./hospitals to give her the vaccination because they didn't want to pay for the shots. You can listen to it here. She was very calm about the whole thing. Were it me, I'd show up in the nearest emergency room and "explain" to the docs on duty that they can give me the vaccinations, or I can start biting them.
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  #44  
Old 05-14-2007, 08:06 AM
lieu lieu is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vetbridge
... so I dumped two wheelbarrows of dirt on top of the lime which is on top of the coon.
Is your neighbor a doper, because I'm wondering if next week we'll see an OP wondering if it's normal for a dying coon to attempt to cover itself with quick lime and two wheelbarrows worth of topsoil.
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  #45  
Old 05-14-2007, 03:54 PM
chorpler chorpler is online now
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Am I misremembering, or does lime actually encourage the process of saponification, converting fatty tissues to soap and encouraging the preservation of the body (in soapy form, anyway) and thus reducing the smell of decomposition by, well, preventing ordinary microbial decomposition?
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  #46  
Old 05-14-2007, 03:57 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Quote:
Am I misremembering, or does lime actually encourage the process of saponification, converting fatty tissues to soap and encouraging the preservation of the body (in soapy form, anyway) and thus reducing the smell of decomposition by, well, preventing ordinary microbial decomposition?
I have noted above (as have other Dopers) that lime is credited with preserving bodies (although there's some controversy about whether that's actually true. I have heard that it promotes saponification, although I didn't write that. I've never heard that lime reduces odors by any mechanism (at least until this thread).
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  #47  
Old 05-14-2007, 04:35 PM
SnakesCatLady SnakesCatLady is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vetbridge
In 1990 I received a series of vaccines for initial protection. It was the same series you would get after possible exposure, except my series lacked gamma globulin (one less injection). I had worsening reactions (severe headache, joint pain) with each injection. I had my titer checked seven years later and still had immunity.

Interestingly, in 1990 the vaccine cost around $100 a pop. It was chemically identical to the canine vaccine marketed by the company and wholesaling at the time for around .80 a dose. Same vaccine, different label.
I got the same series in 2002 when I started trapping feral cats; fortunately my boss paid for it. I looked all over town for some of the "foams in the mouth" candies to use on the guy who gave me the injections but didn't have any luck. I was also lucky in that I had no reactions to the vaccine other than injection site soreness. I was, however, kind of pissed off that I didn't get a nifty little tag like my cats do!
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  #48  
Old 05-15-2007, 10:09 AM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by lieu
Is your neighbor a doper, because I'm wondering if next week we'll see an OP wondering if it's normal for a dying coon to attempt to cover itself with quick lime and two wheelbarrows worth of topsoil.
My neighbor is a doper. Not the kind you are referring to, however.
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