A Prescott Valley woman was bitten Monday by a coati, a member of the raccoon family, which she had been apparently keeping illegally as a pet. The animal attacked the woman, biting and slicing her finger when she tried to take something away from it.

It is illegal in Arizona to take animals out of the wild or to possess restricted wildlife without a permit. Not only had this coati been kept illegally as a pet, it had also been improperly cared for, according to Game and Fish officials. The immature coati was about the size of a large house cat. The tips of the animal’s toes had been amputated at or near the last joint to intentionally de-claw it. These inappropriate alterations were performed in a failed attempt to turn a wild animal into a pet.

When the woman voluntarily surrendered the animal to Game and Fish officials, it was wearing a tight red pet harness device that had left marks from what appeared to be nearly constant wear and constriction. The coati had also been neutered. It had been living on an unnatural diet of cold cereal, human baby food, and a milk-based protein drink for domestic pets.

“Wild animals deserve to live their lives in the wild,” said Jim Paxon, information branch chief for Game and Fish. “This is a basic tenet of wildlife conservation.”

The injured woman readily admitted to medical personnel that the coati had never received a rabies vaccination. When the animal bit her, it broke and sliced her skin, leaving a bleeding wound that required medical treatment. Because the animal had not been vaccinated against rabies and its bite had broken the woman’s skin, testing the coati for rabies was necessary.

“The only way to test for rabies requires us to euthanize the animal,” said Dr. Anne Justice-Allen, the veterinarian for Game and Fish. “That’s been done and the necropsy is being conducted to test for rabies. We should have results within the next 48 hours.”

Many animals in the wild may look tame enough to be pets, but it’s important to remember that wildlife is just that – wild. Although they may act docile and domesticated, the unpredictable behavior of wildlife has resulted in many injuries, often grave and even deadly.

“Eventually a wild animal’s natural instincts will surface,” Paxon said. “Keep wildlife wild. Don’t feed them. Don’t take them out of the wild. Let them live the lives they were meant to live.”

An investigation by Game and Fish is ongoing.

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