Rise in sick raccoons could threaten pets

This fellow may look cute and even friendly, but Flagler County is experiencing an increase in sick raccoons countywide according to an alert forwarded to Historic City News today. Experts say don’t approach raccoons at all but especially if they appear to be ill or acting strangely.

Area animal control officials say they’ve seen an increase in sick raccoons being reported during the last two months. In fact, two sick raccoons were reported to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office this morning, Agricultural Deputy Steve Williams said.

While those cases occurred in different areas of Palm Coast, most of the recent rash of ill animals occurred in a small four-block area on the western part of the barrier island near the Intracoastal Waterway in Flagler Beach. But the incidents appear to be creeping into Palm Coast.

The pattern of sick raccoons comes in waves every couple of years and lasts a month or two. Animal control officials say it may be caused by canine distemper, a painful, fatal animal disease for which there’s no cure. They can’t be certain because funding isn’t available to do testing, said Amy Wade-Cartenuto, executive director of the Flagler Humane Society.

Ill raccoons are brought to the Flagler Humane Society where they are euthanized, Williams said. “They have to be euthanized. It’s a painful death for them if you don’t.”

Canine distemper is a contagious and serious viral illness that affects dogs and certain wildlife, including raccoons, wolves, foxes and skunks. The disease is spread by bodily fluids. Raccoons with distemper may approach people or curl up to sleep in open areas near people. They act disoriented or lethargic, but can become aggressive if cornered. And they can have seizures, depending on the stage of the disease.

People shouldn’t be frightened of raccoons but should simply stay clear, Wade-Cartenuto said. “You should never feed wild animals. If they’re friendly, they are either sick or someone has tamed them.”

To help prevent this disease from spreading, make sure your animals are vaccinated, especially young animals. Dogs, or cats, who have not been vaccinated against distemper and come into contact with raccoons with distemper can catch the disease. People cannot get canine distemper. Still, it’s best to stay away from raccoons.

Share your thoughts with our readers >>