A female raccoon that hitched a ride from Long Beach, Calif. aboard a Matson cargo ship was captured on New Year’s Eve when the boat came into Honolulu Harbor.
State agricultural personnel and Matson workers used food to lure the 15-pound animal into a trap. It was euthanized, and some of its brain tissue was sent to a mainland laboratory to determine whether it was carrying rabies (it was not). Hawaii is the only state that is rabies-free, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Raccoons account for about 36 percent of all rabid wildlife reports.
“A brown bat was caught at Honolulu Harbor in 1991 and tested positive for rabies,” wrote Janelle Saneishi, spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, in an email. Another raccoon hitched a ride on a Pasha ship in the mid-2000s, she wrote, but “a crew member killed the raccoon before the ship arrived on Maui. That [also] tested negative for rabies.”
In addition to the possibility of introducing rabies, raccoons pose a danger to native species in Hawaii because they eat plants, insects, birds, bird eggs, fish and small mammals. Alien species are one of the primary threats to native ecosystems.