COVINGTON -- A 9-month-old baby was mauled by two raccoons as she slept in her crib in the early morning hours Wednesday, according to the Newton County Sheriff's Office.
The attack occurred about 4:30 a.m. at 125 Brookhollow Way, a rural area just south of Mansfield off Highway 11 and Loyd Road. NCSO spokesman Lt. Tyrone Oliver said both raccoons actually climbed inside the crib with the child, biting her extensively.
The mother and four other children were in the house at the time of the incident, but were unharmed.
The child was transported to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston where she remains in critical condition, according to Oliver.
"It was an awful sight. I'm not sure about any other injuries, but there were extensive injuries to the face and head area," Oliver said. "I've seen people bitten by animals, but never in my life have I seen a 9-month-old literally eaten alive by raccoons."
He said when deputies arrived they found the two grown raccoons outside the house.
"One of the raccoons turned aggressively toward the deputies and one deputy fired two shots, hitting it," Oliver said. "They both ran off into a pile of tree limbs behind the house."
Newton County Animal Control was called to the scene, as well as Newton County Public Works.
"They helped move debris around in the back yard so we could locate the raccoons," Oliver said, adding that neighbors showed up with coon dogs, as well. Ultimately, only one raccoon was recovered and was sent to the Georgia Public Health Lab in Atlanta for rabies testing.
Newton County Animal Control Director Terry Key-Hooson said late Wednesday that the raccoon tested negative for rabies, but precautions will be taken since the second raccoon was never found.
"I believe the child will be treated for possible exposure to rabies because they did not recover both of them," Key-Hooson said. "I have reported it to the regional health department."
Treatment for rabies includes a series of injections.
Oliver said the NCSO is investigating rumors that the raccoons were being kept at the home as family pets. Should that be the case, he said criminal charges would be forthcoming.
He said a large cage was located outside the home, but investigators were told birds were kept in the cage. No cages were found inside the home, he said.
Additionally the Newton County Department of Family and Children's Services is investigating.