LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Niagara County Department of Health is warning residents not to touch wild raccoons after an individual reportedly brought a baby raccoon into a West Avenue bar.
Last Friday, someone brought a baby raccoon into Mr. Quiggleys Saloon at 635 West Ave. Several people are reported to have touched or handled the animal.
The baby raccoon was one of 13 raccoon young found on Donner Road in the town of Pendleton.
Twelve raccoons were put down and sampled for rabies by the health department. Another baby raccoon was found dead at the scene.
The animals had to be tested because one of them had been handled, said Paul Dicky, director of Niagara County Health Department’s environmental health division said.
“If the raccoons were not touched, they would not have had to euthanized and tested,” Dicky said.
The dead raccoon was deemed unable to be tested and is presumed to be positive for rabies.
Determining an animal’s rabies status is crucial when there is contact between a potentially rabid animal and a person or pet, Niagara County Public Health director Dan Stapleton said.
“People that have had contact with animals presumed to be rabid require post-exposure treatment,” Stapleton said.
Any individual at Mr. Quiggleys Saloon or otherwise, who had physical contact with the baby raccoon is urged to contact the Niagara County Department of Health at (716) 439- 7444 to report his/her specific circumstances and the possible need for post-exposure rabies shots to prevent the potential onset of the disease.
The Erie County Health Department also released a statement Thursday warning about rabies prevention during warmer months.
Thanks to a mild 2016-2017 winter, more wildlife and insects survived than usual. A significant number of abandoned raccoons and fox pups have already been reported, along with both mothers and pups testing positive for rabies.
Individuals with good intentions often attempt to help young wildlife that appears to be orphaned, the ECDOH’s statement read, but handling the animals may result in them inadvertently being euthanized, and anyone who handled them would need to undergo post-exposure anti-rabies vaccinations.
“The best thing to do is to leave wildlife alone,” the statement added.
In addition, if your pet is involved with a suspected rabid animal, do not handle the dog with bare hands following the incident. There is the possibility of getting your pet’s saliva on your hands. Wait a few hours and then bathe the animal while wearing protective gloves.
If an animal is obviously injured and/or orphaned, call a wildlife rehabilitator for advice and help, such as the Wildlife Department of the SPCA serving Erie County (716-875-7360) or the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (“DEC”) Regional Wildlife office to locate a wildlife rehabilitator in your area (716- 851-7010).
Bats can also carry the rabies virus. Rabid bats typically lose their ability to fly, making them more likely to come into contact with people or pets. A healthy bat will typically avoid contact with humans and pets and will not be found on the ground. Bats infected with rabies can also be found disoriented, making them more likely to end up inside of dwellings.
Bat bites may not be noticed because their teeth are very tiny and sharp- a bat bite is no larger than a needle prick, Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burnstein said.
Rabies infected wildlife, such as raccoons, carry rabies and transmit infection, even without a bite.
Any direct contact with a bat or other potentially rabies infected wildlife should be considered a possible rabies exposure.
For more information on how to deal with potentially rabid bats, click here.
For more information on rabies and rabies prevention, click here.