Raccoons with Distemper in City Parks

The Health Department and NYC Parks recently discovered raccoons infected with canine distemper virus in Central Park and Pelham Bay Park. Keep raccoons and dogs safe by leashing your dog while visiting the park.

Distemper is a viral illness that does not pose a health risk for humans. It can spread to dogs when they make contact with infected saliva, feces, respiratory discharge or urine.

If you own a dog, make sure their distemper and rabies vaccinations are current. If a raccoon bites your dog and its rabies vaccinations are not up to date, the dog may need to be quarantined.

No raccoons have tested positive for rabies. However, raccoons with distemper may look like they have rabies. They act lethargic, have a runny nose and eyes, may appear confused or disoriented or become aggressive.

If you or your pet is bitten by a raccoon, or if you see a sick or injured raccoon, call 311. The City will try to capture the raccoon to test it for rabies. Any person bitten by a raccoon should seek medical care.

Raccoons in New York City brochure [PDF]

Raccoons live in all five boroughs of New York City and may be found living near or in your home. They thrive if there is an abundance of food and available shelter. Raccoons can become a nuisance if people unknowingly supply food or shelter for them.

Can raccoons carry rabies?

Yes. Raccoons, like all mammals, can become infected with rabies. Rabies can be transferred to people and pets from a raccoon bite or scratch. Stay away from a raccoon that appears ill, is unable to stand or walk or is behaving aggressively or acting unusually friendly. Call 311 to report animals that are displaying these or other unusual behaviors.

What should I do if a raccoon bites or scratches me?

Wash the wound with lots of soap and water and seek immediate medical care from your health care provider or go to an emergency room. Call 311 as soon as possible to report the raccoon bite. Then the Health Department will determine if the raccoon should be picked up and tested for rabies.

What can I do to protect my pets?

Make sure that your cat or dog is properly vaccinated against rabies. All pets need to be revaccinated at regular intervals to remain up to date. If you are unsure when your pet needs to be revaccinated, check with your veterinarian.

How do I keep raccoons out of my home?

  • Make sure raccoons don't have access to food in or near your home. Raccoons will eat anything and live almost anywhere, including rock piles, fireplace chimneys, hollow walls, attics or sewers.
  • Don't feed your pets outside; the food will attract raccoons as well as pests and other stray animals.
  • Keep your garbage area clean and garbage containers tightly covered.
  • Buy a raccoon-resistant covered trash can or put a weight on the lid so raccoons can't open it.
  • Seal all openings to your home and garage, including outdoor sheds.
  • Trim tree branches, which raccoons can use to climb into your attic or onto your roof.
  • Cayenne pepper may be sprinkled around the area but make sure cats and dogs do not come in contact with the pepper as it can be an irritant to pets as well.

If raccoons are in my home, how do I get them out?

Raccoons look for safe quiet areas to set up their dens so creating an uncomfortable environment may cause the raccoon to relocate, especially if it's a female with her young. Never attempt to capture or trap a raccoon yourself.

  • Put bright or flashing lights in your attic or other areas where raccoons are.
  • Play loud music or the radio in your attic or other areas where raccoons are living and leave it on.

If the above suggested methods do not effectively work you may need to hire a Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator (NWCO) licensed by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). To find a professionally licensed wildlife trapper near you, visit dec.ny.gov and search ‘wildlife control'.

How can I make sure raccoons don't come back inside?

When the raccoons are gone, it is important to find out where they got in, such as through a torn window screen, chimney or an opening in the wall or roof, so you can prevent them from getting back in through the same way. Permanently seal all entrances after checking that all animals are out of the den, especially in the spring when female raccoons have litters.

Make sure trash is picked up on your property, fence in areas underneath decks, seal entrances to garages and sheds, trim back tree branches to limit access to roofs and attics and don't leave food where raccoons can get it.

Learn about raccoon roundworms (Baylisascariasis)