Monday, July 9, 2018

Those Darn Raccoons

This guy was hanging around Main Street
Last spring I got a strange call. A woman said she heard an awful noise coming from her back yard. When she looked outside she saw a giant raccoon. (It was during the day so she knows it has rabies -- grr). I told her it wasn't rabies, but I would come and take a look anyway. When I arrived we couldn't find the raccoon anywhere. Then I looked up and saw him. It was definitely a big raccoon, and he was climbing up her live oak tree. He looked determined. I told her that he looked healthy, but please call if he comes back down. As I was leaving we heard the "awful noise" again and I realized that there were two raccoons in the tree. Then the light bulb came on. Apparently raccoons are very noisy when the mate.

I had a guy call last week. He saw a mother raccoon out with her babies and "they all gotta have rabies 'cuz they're out during the day!" (Regular readers know what's coming next.) I nicely explained that urban raccoons have learned that food is easier to find during the day and they have shifted their sleeping patterns. Since raccoon had youngsters with her, I would bet that the raccoons were not rabid, just hungry.

Our city is a tree sanctuary. We actually have lots of wildlife, especially raccoons. The city is also an unofficial crazy cat lady sanctuary. We have a large number of people feeding feral cats along with all the opportunistic wildlife -- especially raccoons. (See what's happening here?)

Every year we have raccoons die of distemper. This season of death runs roughly November through April. This season we caught and euthanized 40 raccoons -- four times our normal average. Other raccoons were found dead in the parks or in people's yards. The town was in a panic over sick raccoons and everybody assumed it was rabies. What a nightmare!

I wrote an article for the city's FB page about raccoons and distemper. Points included:
  • Raccoons are susceptible to both canine and feline distemper. Although they both can cause acute illness and death, they are two completely different viruses. Distemper does not affect humans.
  • The disease is more likely to occur when raccoon populations are large or concentrated. Not all raccoons get the disease. Others do, yet live through it.
  • The disease is spread when animals direct contact with body fluids or droppings from an infected animal. 
  • Distemper is always present in the environment, so the best prevention is to ensure your pets are vaccinated. Contact your vet to make sure your pets’ vaccinations are current.
  • Symptoms of distemper may include discharge from the nose and eyes, a rough coat, emaciated appearance, and unusual behavior such as disorientation or wandering aimlessly. Although some symptoms are similar, distemper is not the same disease as rabies.
  • Keep children and pets away from sick raccoons. As the disease progresses, the animal may appear calm, but can become aggressive if it feels trapped or threatened.
  • If you have a sick raccoon in your yard, call the police department. An animal control officer will be dispatched as soon as possible. (Yes, this was written before the idiot decided to kill the raccoon with an axe.)
  • To discourage raccoons, remove attractants like bird feeders from your yard.
  • Feed your pets indoors.
  • Make sure garbage cans are secure and can’t be knocked over or have their lids removed.
  • Sick raccoons may pass through your yard and move on.
  • If a raccoon dies in your yard, place it in a thick garbage bag and dispose of it with your garbage.
  • DO NOT FEED RACCOONS! Providing artificial food sources leads to unnaturally large concentrations of animals and increases the spread of disease.
Think it'll help? Probably not. Raccoons are smart. People, not so much. -- K