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Raccoon ends championship hopes for Carrington, N.D., wrestlers

GRAND FORKS - A high school wrestling team in North Dakota was pulled from a tournament when officials discovered the athletes had been exposed to a live raccoon.

Police said the raccoon was found while the Carrington High School team was traveling to the tournament in Grafton, and it was stowed in the storage area of the bus. Team officials told police they picked up the animal because they thought it was dead.

Grafton police Sgt. Anthony Dumas said the storage area was opened later and the raccoon "just trotted away." Dumas says no one was scratched or bit by the animal.

School officials decided to bring the team home as a precaution. State health officials say there's no health risk to athletes who competed against Carrington.

"We (school administrators) found out as the tournament was going on that while our students were on the way to the event, they were exposed to a raccoon," Carrington school superintendent Brian Duchscherer said.

"Once we found that out, we didn't know if there was the potential of spreading anything, if the raccoon had rabies or not, so we decided to bring our kids home."

There has been no determination if the raccoon had rabies. All types of mammals can contract rabies, but the vast majority of cases involve wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Michelle Feist, a public health official with the North Dakota Department of Health, was contacted by Carrington school officials after the raccoon was discovered.

Feist said there is no concern about health risks to wrestlers who competed against Carrington's athletes.

"The Carrington wres­tlers, if they were bitten or scratched by the raccoon or were playing around the raccoon's mouth and had an open cut, that could be exposure to it," Feist said. "We haven't assessed any of those kids yet. But just petting the raccoon or being on the bus with the animal is not exposure. And anybody who came in contact with any of the (Carrington) wrestlers who were in contact with the raccoon, we're not worried about health risks for them. That is not an exposure concern."

Dumas, who responded to the call, said police looked for the raccoon, hoping to catch it so it could be tested for rabies, but it was not found.

The school isn't sure how many wrestlers were exposed to the raccoon.

Carrington beat Larimore 64-15 in the quarterfinals and Mayville-Portland-Clifford-Galesburg 66-13 in the semifinals and was scheduled to meet North Border-Cavalier in the championship.

Instead, North Border-Cavalier won the championship by forfeit.