Woman Who Brought Wild Raccoon Into North Dakota Bar Faces Charges

by Samantha Whidden

What started off as an interesting interaction at a bar is now turning into a legal headache. A woman is now facing criminal charges after she brought a wild raccoon into a North Dakota bar. 

According to AP News, the raccoon incident prompted North Dakota health officials to issue a warning about potential rabies exposure. Erin Christensen is being charged with misdemeanor counts of providing false information to law enforcement, tampering with physical evidence, and unlawful possession of furbearers. 

Christensen was notably arrested last week after authorities discovered her and the raccoon. She revealed that her family found the animal on the side of the road about three months ago. Its name is Rocky. She said they were nursing the creature to health with plans to release it back into the wild. 

Although her story seems noble, it’s illegal under the North Dakota Board of Animal Health laws to keep a wild raccoon. Unfortunately, authorities had to euthanize the animal. It tested negative for rabies.

Bartender at North Dakota Bar Says the Raccoon Never Bit Anyone 

Christensen notably took to Rocky the raccoon to Maddock Bar on September 6th during happy. She showed the animal around and had some fun. The bar’s bartender, Cindy Smith, stated that the animal never bit anyone during its visit. The bartender declared she had no idea what Christensen was thinking.

Smith also stated that she told Christensen to leave. However, Christensen decided to take the raccoon around the bar to show another customer. Christensen and the animal left the bar after five minutes. “We finally got her out with it, and that’s all that happened. It never left her arms one time, and there was absolutely no biting.” 

Despite not biting anyone, North Dakota’s Health and Human Services Department ended up issuing a warning asking anyone who may have been bitten or had content with the raccoon’s saliva to seek medical care. Speaking about the rabies alert, epidemiologist Amanda Bakken said in a statement, “Because rabies is such a serious disease with a nearly 100% fatality rate, we are making this information available to the public as a precautionary measure.”

It was reported that six rabid animals have been discovered in North Dakota this year. This includes two bats, two cats, one bovine, and one skunk. 

Christensen issued a statement about the arrest and Rocky’s fate. “It’s unfair and too much was done to detain an innocent raccoon. They were not worried about the health of us if we had rabies or not. They were worried about finding and killing Rocky and putting me behind bars.”

The charges against Christensen reportedly carry a maximum punishment of about two years in jail as well as $7,500 in fines. Her initial court appearance will take place next week.