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Community Watchdog: How officials handle raccoon reports

Raccoons have been ambling about in daylight in a Merrick neighborhood, where resident Robert Elan said their unsteady gait, inability to proceed in a straight line and penchant for reclining is reminiscent of the drunken sailor stereotype.

Elan said the neighborhood sought help from Nassau County on two occasions, fearing the animals may have rabies, but were told that neither police nor the health department could remove them.

To explain the health department's policy, spokeswoman Mary Ellen J. Laurain sent this statement to Watchdog:

"Per the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, raccoons are considered wildlife and therefore are protected by the law." She said the department does not retrieve raccoons" unless there is human contact in the form of a bite or a scratch."

County police take action if a raccoon is inside a house or has bitten or scratched someone, according to a spokesman. Barring such an encounter, residents must turn to animal-control services. Elan said he wound up paying $200 to have an animal removed.

"When you have a situation as I've described to you, an animal acting like a drunken sailor, and who parks himself on somebody's front lawn. . . . You can't let the animal sit there," Elan said.

Some raccoons appearing in daylight may be foraging for food for their young. "Females will be out during the day, sometimes with their young," said Donald Lein, professor emeritus at Cornell University's Animal Health Diagnostic Center. "They just need to get food."

Cornell, which has overseen rabies-control efforts on Long Island since 2006, reported early last year that raccoon rabies had been "officially eliminated" here. Cases continue to be reported elsewhere in the state, including Queens.

The program, which drops vaccine-laden bait from helicopters and sets up help-yourself bait stations, will soon extend to a section of the Nassau-Queens border, Lein said.

Nassau confirmed 67 cases of raccoon rabies from 2004 until 2007, when the last case was reported, Laurain said. Surveillance includes testing raccoons that have bitten or scratched someone as well as those caught in traps.

Suffolk's last confirmed case was in January 2009. Suffolk police do respond to reports of raccoons seen during the day and "if it is warranted we will humanely euthanize the animals," according to a department statement.


LIPA removes vacant utility pole

Last year LIPA installed a new utility pole in front of my mother's home, farther from the house than the old one. The electrical line wasn't lengthened so it had no slack, and an eyebolt connecting the wire to the house came loose in a storm with strong winds.

LIPA told my mother to hire a private electrician to make the repair. The electricians I spoke to thought that LIPA should make the repair since they caused the problem. It's a year later, and the vacant utility pole still hasn't been removed.

-- John Hoehman, Massapequa Park

Let's start with the eyebolt:

It's typically considered customer property, according to LIPA spokesman Mark Gross, so repair or replacement is the customer's responsibility.

In this case, LIPA gave Hoehman "the benefit of the doubt" and reattached the dangling eyebolt, as well as substituting a longer electrical wire to give it sufficient slack to weather the next storm.

As for the division of responsibility for equipment: LIPA is responsible for service lines from the pole to the house and its connections, Gross said, and the homeowner is responsible for the "entrance cable" that connects to the service lines at the top of a home down to a meter pan, the meter pan itself and the connections it houses, the weatherhead (the protective covering where wires enter a building) and the eyebolt.

As for the old utility pole: LIPA has taken it away.

Long Island residential customers with general inquiries for LIPA can call 800-490-0025.


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