File photo of a groundhog. In Bucksport, a rabid groundhog attacked a small-breed dog on July 31, marking the first case of rabies in Hancock County this year. Credit: Stock image | Pixabay

A dog is in 45-day quarantine in Bucksport after he was attacked by a woodchuck in Hancock County’s first confirmed case of animal rabies this year.

The small-breed dog received a booster shot after the woodchuck charged at it from woods near the owner’s home in Bucksport on July 31, Shawna McArdle, a veterinarian at Bucksport Veterinary Hospital, said.

“The owner is very worried but we’re pretty confident that there is low risk of exposure,” McArdle said Wednesday. “He was up to date on his vaccines and we don’t have any visible bites.”

[Midcoast fox and skunk test positive for rabies]

The woodchuck’s carcass tested positive for rabies the following day, Eris Kilham, a microbiologist at the Maine Centers for Disease Control lab in Augusta, said.

Bucksport is the 26th of 27 cases of rabies reported statewide as of Aug. 3. The 27th case, a bat in Brunswick, was reported on Aug. 2, according to a listing at

The woodchuck — which also are called groundhogs — is the first reported with the disease this year. Fifteen raccoons, eight gray foxes, six skunks, two bats and a cat are the other verified animals, according to the listing.

[Here’s how likely it is that you’ll actually contract rabies]

McArdle said she was surprised that the attack had not yet been widely publicized. Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that affects the brain and spinal cord and can cause death if left untreated. Rabies in people is very rare nationwide, but in animals it’s common in most parts of the country, including Maine.

The CDC lab is swamped with animals to test, Kilham said.

“Today we’re testing 14,” Kilham said. “The volume we are getting in is heavy. We have been seeing days of 10, 8, 6 [animals to test]. It’s that time of year.”

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