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Posted: November 5, 2010 10:39 a.m.

Infant remains in critical condition after attack by raccoons

Baby in critical condition

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The 9-month-old baby attacked by raccoons in her crib early Wednesday remains in critical condition. Authorities are investigating to see if the parents were keeping the animals as pets.

Deputies from the Newton County Sheriff's Office were called to a home on Brook Hollow Way off Georgia Highway 11 around 4:30 a.m. after a mother called 911 to report that two raccoons had attacked her baby while she slept in her crib.

According to Newton County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Lt. Tyrone Oliver, the mother woke to the sound of her daughter whimpering. When she looked, two raccoons were in her daughter's crib, biting the infant. The woman threw the raccoons out of the home and called for help.

When deputies arrived, two raccoons were outside of the home. One of the animals began behaving aggressively and was shot. The two raccoons then ran into the backyard and into some debris. According to Oliver, heavy equipment was called in to move the debris and deputies found the uninjured raccoon, which was then shot and taken by animal control to be tested for rabies.

The raccoon that had been shot by deputies was not located, although Oliver said that Newton County Animal Control Director Teri Key-Hoosen followed a blood trail left by the animal and deduced that it could not have survived losing that much blood. By Wednesday afternoon, the rabies test performed on the other raccoon had come back negative, according to Key-Hoosen.

The baby's mother told deputies that the raccoons apparently gained entry into the home by pushing in the side panels of a window air conditioning unit that was in the bedroom.

Oliver said investigators are trying to determine whether the animals were being kept as pets. If that is the case, the parents could face charges from both the Department of Natural Resources and the sheriff's office.

According to Charlie Killmaster, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, raccoons are not normally aggressive animals, though they are predatory and will sometimes go after chickens and small pets.

"The only thing I can think of is that they may have been in search of food and they come into the house," he said.

"What it sounds like is that you have two raccoons who have been habituated to humans... I would be interested to know if they had been feeding the raccoons in or around the house," said Killmaster. "Because whether it is intentional or inadvertent, when they (raccoons) get used to an easy food source, it's not uncommon for them to tear through a screen door to get to that food and this time of year they are under a little more stress to find food because a lot of fruits that are available to them in late summer are gone by now... The only thing I can think of is that the infant was viewed as a food source when they came across it. This entire situation is very strange and unusual."

The baby was transported to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston where she remains in critical condition with extensive injuries to her face and head and minor abrasions to her hands and feet. There were four other children in the home at the time of the attack and none were injured. They are with family members at this time.

According to Oliver the Department of Family and Children Services is looking into the incident, which is protocol when a child is injured. It is also still being actively investigated by investigators.

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