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State kills 39 opossums, 7 raccoons, 5 squirrels and dove removed from Durham home

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission seized 39 opossums, seven raccoons, five gray squirrels and mourning dove from a home in northern Durham last week, according to court documents.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission seized 39 opossums, seven raccoons, five gray squirrels and mourning dove from a home in northern Durham last week, according to court documents. AP

State wildlife agents euthanized 39 opossums, seven raccoons, five gray squirrels and a mourning dove removed from a Durham woman’s home last week, according to court documents.

On June 24, Sgt. Forest Orr of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission received complaints that Kimberly Childress, one of the agency’s permit holders, was in violation of her permits for holding and rehabilitating wild animals.

“Specifically, the complaints were about Miss Childress being in possession of raccoons and opossums running freely around her house in the same proximity of domesticated animals,” according to a search warrant executed Thursday, Aug. 1.

The house appears to be on a cul-de-sac in Horton Hills, a neighborhood between Guess Road and Roxboro Street in northern Durham.

The warrants indicated that nine of the 30 opossums and four of the five squirrels were juveniles.

Childress declined to comment when reached by phone Monday.

The seized animals included species known to possibly transmit rabies, Orr said in an interview.

“When animals are exposed to these rabies vectors, it greatly increases the likelihood of a public health issue, so they were all euthanized,” Orr said.

Officials also have to consider the condition of the animals and whether they can be successfully reintroduced to the wild, he said.

Some pets also taken were surrendered to Durham County Animal Services and then returned to their owner, Orr said. Those animals include three dogs; a cat; sugar gliders, a type of marsupial; and a pigeon.

Childress faces a total of five misdemeanors, Orr said.

If convicted of two of the charges related to possessing a raccoon and a mourning dove without a permit, she could face an up to $35 fine per conviction and $180 in court costs.

In the United States, 91 percent of rabies cases occurred in wildlife in 2017, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bats were the most frequently reported wildlife with rabies, making up 32 percent. Raccoons were second, at 29 percent of the cases, followed by skunks and foxes.

Although not that common, rabies is a serious concern among mammals.

Raccoon rabies is present in almost every county in North Carolina, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

“It is very, very difficult to get a permit for a raccoon,” Orr said. “Typically, if permits are issued for raccoons it is like for a zoo or somewhere like that.”

The other three misdemeanors relate to failing to meet minimal standards for holding wildlife in captivity, including failing an odor control program, failing to provide clean water and failing to meet the minimum square footage requirements for multiple animal enclosures.

For those misdemeanors, Childress faces a $25 fine for each misdemeanor and $180 in court costs.

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Virginia Bridges covers criminal justice in Orange and Durham counties for The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer. She has worked for newspapers for more than 15 years. In 2017, the N.C. Press Association awarded her first place for beat feature reporting. The N.C. State Bar Association awarded her the 2018 Media & Law Award for Best Series.
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