INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — No, it's not a Chupacabra. It's not a hairless dog or oversized cat, either. When Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County's Ilka Daniel was called to help an unidentified animal found in a dumpster, she wasn't sure what to expect.
Working with Vero Beach Animal Control Officer Bruce Dangerfield and Vero Beach Police Officer John Grenzenbach, Daniel was able to catch the animal and identify him as a hairless raccoon.
Soon after his capture, Daniel transported the adult male raccoon to the Humane Society. According to Daniel and veterinarian Lyndall Soule, the raccoon is dehydrated but doesn't appear to be sick or have mange and is in otherwise good health.
"He's an absolutely amazing creature," Daniel said of the unusual but frightened animal with big dark eyes. "It's just incredible that he's survived so well."
Upon his arrival at the shelter, Daniel was able to provide the raccoon with food and water.
"He seemed to realize that we were trying to help him," she said.
One of the greatest lessons Daniel hopes people will learn is not to be frightened of the mysterious.
"People may jump to conclusions when they see animals like this raccoon, and may even be frightened," she said.
But Daniel added that careful observation of an animal's body and behavior can often provide a logical explanation.
Florida law mandates that raccoons can only be released in the area where they were found. And because the raccoon was discovered near the heavily trafficked Indian River Boulevard and 17th Street in Vero Beach, The Humane Society did not believe it was appropriate to re-release the raccoon in the area.
Instead, officials from the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary have agreed to take in the animal, according to Daniel.
"We're very, very pleased," she said of the organization helping out. "I hope he lives a normal life."