Raccoon-loving Omaha restaurant keeping close eye on critters amid rabies discovery

The raccoon-friendly Alpine Inn is keeping a close eye on their critter friends amid the discovery of a rare rabies strain in Douglas County.
Published: Oct. 30, 2023 at 10:15 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Following Monday’s announcement of efforts being made by local, state, and federal agencies to prevent the spread of a rare strain of raccoon rabies, a local restaurant said they aren’t concerned.

They’re constantly keeping a close eye on dozens of critters in the area.

The Alpine Inn, just north of the metro, isn’t just known for its fried chicken; they’re also known for their love of wildlife.

One step into the restaurant, and you’ll see photos of raccoons on every wall.

“You’ll see opossums, skunks, squirrels, birds, raccoons,” said owner Jaimi Fay.

The restaurant has been in Jaimi’s family since the early 1970s.

Every day at The Alpine, animals in the area feast on pounds of top-notch table scraps.

“We have trays where we dump out all the stuff, these are repurposed scraps from all the families that leave things behind,” Fay said, pointing to freshly-filled trays sitting just outside the windows of the restaurant. “Sometimes you get big chicken, sometimes you just get bones. Either way, they eat everything but a tiny sliver of a bone every day which is cleaned up nightly.”

More often than not, you’ll see a raccoon - or five - staying well-fed and well-hydrated outside the restaurant.

“This is a freshwater source that is cleaned daily,” Fay said, pointing out a bright blue baby pool filled with clean water.

When the news of the rare strain of raccoon rabies found in the metro area was announced earlier this month...

“It just came as a big surprise,” Fay said.

Surprised, but not overly uneasy. Why?

First, the restaurant is just outside of the radius of concern, where the strain was identified, and where vaccine packets will soon be placed to prevent any further spread.

“Of course we were worried, but on the other hand we hadn’t seen any signs and as of right now we still haven’t seen anything, so we’re really grateful for that,” Fay adds.

Secondly, as often as staff and customers observe the furry friends from inside the restaurant, Fay said they would know if something was wrong with one of them.

“We pay attention to all of these animals on a daily basis, all day long, all night long.”

Fay said the restaurant is thankful that local, state, and federal agencies are taking steps to protect local wildlife, like their beloved raccoons.

To them, they aren’t just animals; they’re friends.

“We love animals, and we think that every animal matters so that being said, anything we can do to be proactive and keep them all safe, we’re here for ya,” Fay said.

The health department said since the trap-and-release program began earlier this month, they’ve vaccinated over 500 raccoons, two dozen skunks, three cats, and a red fox, too.