Barbara Prada, the Edgartown animal control officer, has been fielding some strange calls this summer. So when she submitted her quarterly report to the Edgartown selectmen on Monday, the board had a few questions ready.
Selectmen: “Are you trying to kid us here?”
Ms. Prada: “No, someone actually called.”
Selectmen: “Was it a mountain lion?”
Ms. Prada: “No, she called back a few hours later to say. ‘I saw it again and it’s actually not a mountain lion’.”
In fact the animal was a dog with a tan coat. Ms. Prada and her team were also contacted several times in September about a rattlesnake, which was never found. Indeed, parts of the roster could be confused for a call sheet from Florida animal control, or even the jungles of Burma. And this season has not been exceptional.
“Last year we got a gazillion calls about a black panther,” Ms. Prada said over the telephone following the meeting this week. Panther sightings continued for over a month until the alleged predator was finally identified as a large house cat. “Especially if it’s a full moon, we get some pretty crazy calls. I have been doing this for 25 years”, Ms. Prada said. “Just shoot me now.”
The animal control team has also dealt with real animals this summer, including 10 bats, several of which were caught, euthanized and sent to Jamaica Plain for examination. “If someone’s intoxicated or if there’s a child in the house,” she told the selectmen, “we have to catch it because a lot of times people get bitten and don’t even know it.” She went on to illustrate the importance of vigilance. “They had some guy up in Maine, I think, died a couple of months ago. He thought he’d been bitten by a mosquito, bite swelled on his neck. And he died of rabies,” Ms. Prada said.
“That would make a good Halloween story,” mused selectman Michael Donaroma. Ms. Prada countered: “I know . . . I’ve got my outfit decided.”
In other business this week selectmen voted to adopt a health scheme that will give municipal workers time off on the clock to obtain free cancer screenings and the chance to qualify for 12 week-long fitness programs. Employers will receive a stipend of $200 from the Cape Cod Municipal Health Group in return for granting leave to all employees covered by the health plan.
In the initiative, plan members who are 40 and over are given a half-day’s leave for annual mammogram or prostate exams, and those over 50 are allowed a full day for colonoscopies. Previously, town employees had to take personal days when they went for medical testing.
The meeting also saw the introduction of the Health Initiative Program, which offers classes aimed at improving eating and exercising habits. Employees are screened initially and, if found to be at risk, are put on a 12-week course, held twice during the year.
The health programs are also being adopted by other towns across the Vineyard. The municipal health group’s pilot smoking-cessation program, titled Kick Butts and offering financial rewards to successful participants, was not put forward to the Edgartown board. “Every year they offer us a new perk to keep us happy,” said Marilyn Wortman, human resources coordinator for the town. “They are trying out the anti-smoking on the Cape this year and, if it’s successful, it will come to us from there,” she said.