LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) — Niagara County’s Public Health Director Dan Stapleton seems to give these warnings every year around this time.

“People should be staying away from wild animals,” Stapleton said.

Once western New York wakes from its winter slumber, and more people are spending time outside, human and animal interactions increase.

As does the chance for disease.

“We tell people this, we tell people multiple times a year, we do press releases and media campaigns, and people still do it,” Stapleton said.

Someone didn’t get the memo.

Stapleton says a woman picked up a baby racoon from a litter of 13 in the town of Pendletown last Friday, and brought it to Mr. Quiggley’s Dead Dog Saloon in Lockport.

There, it interacted with multiple people.

The bar’s owner said the animal never came inside.

But that’s not the point, according to Stapleton.

“People who think that this is a small, furry little puppy, it’s not,” he said. “It’s not a puppy. It’s not a cat. It’s a wild animal that they’re not aware of.”

All 13 raccoons had to be tracked down and euthanized to be tested for rabies. Twelve tested negative. One was already dead and could not be tested.

“And because rabies is a fatal disease, we have to assume that it died of rabies,” Stapleton said.

Stapleton urges residents to enjoy wildlife, but especially this time of year, do it from a distance.

“When something is as risky as this, as many as times as we need to tell them, we will,” he said. “But it’s frustrating that people are putting themselves at risk, and their children and their families.”

Anyone at Mr. Quiggleys or otherwise, who had physical contact with the baby raccoon is urged to contact the Niagara County Department of Health at (716) 439- 7444.

For more information on rabies from Niagara and Erie counties, click here.