Raccoon distemper outbreak declared in Toronto as calls for service spike

Joseph Romain was sweeping leaves on Sunday afternoon when he came face to face with a “very large” aggressive raccoon.

“This angry raccoon came out shooting between the two garages and came towards me,” he told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday.

“I entered the house and closed the door. The raccoon stayed on the porch screaming and screaming and hissing, then he came down and climbed that tree.

Fortunately, the east Toronto resident was able to get away from the creature, but said the ordeal was “very harrowing”.

Romain, in a Facebook post on a Leslieville group, said he called “animal control” to report the sick raccoon, which he says poses a danger to children and pets, but has said Tuesday afternoon that he was still waiting for someone to come forward. at the top.

The raccoon who picked up Romain probably has distemper, a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of dogs and other wild animals, including foxes, raccoons scrubbers, coyotes and skunks.

Although distemper has been around for a while, Toronto Animal Services (TAS) told CP24.com that they typically see an increase in the disease among the raccoon population every two to three years.

They said a raccoon distemper outbreak is declared when they begin to see an increase in service requests for sick raccoons with symptoms associated with distemper.

The latest monthly CAS data shows that there has been a significant increase in service requests for raccoons from May to September 2022, both for dead body collection and for injured and sick wild animals, prompting them to report a raccoon distemper epidemic.

Supervisor Carl Bandow said for context that between October 31 and November 6, they received 502 requests for sick/injured animals, 70 requests for confined strays, stray dogs on the loose and animals requiring protective care following the hospitalization of the owner. , incarcerated, fire emergency or evicted, and 411 service requests for dead body pickup.

With so many calls for service, Toronto Animal Services said wait times for sick, injured or deceased wild animals have increased significantly.

“There are usually four TAS agents who work during the day and two at night to respond to service requests. As staff work to remove dead bodies as soon as possible, we are prioritizing responding to calls from sick and injured animals,” Bandow told CP24.

“At this time, TAS has an average response time of 12-14 days for requests for corpse pickup service compared to the standard 48 hours. Our small, dedicated team works very hard to prioritize requests and respond in a timely manner. We thank residents for their patience and understanding during this very busy time. »

Toronto Animal Services told CP24 that most recent service requests have come from Ward 14 (Toronto-Danforth) and Ward 19 (Beaches East York), “with a lesser increase” in Ward 15 (Don Valley West) and Ward 20 (Scarborough Southwest).

Toronto Animal Services said raccoons with distemper typically lose their fear of humans, appear blind and confused, may wander aimlessly and can become aggressive if cornered. The division advises residents “to avoid physical contact with raccoons and other wildlife and to give them the space they need to escape.”

They also advise people to take extra precautions to reduce the risk of disease transmission from wildlife to dogs, including ensuring dogs are vaccinated against distemper and rabies, watching their dogs closely when ‘they’re outdoors so they don’t encounter wildlife and discouraging raccoons from taking up residence in yards.

More information on raccoon distemper can be found on the City of Toronto’s Raccoon webpage.

With files from Beth MacDonnell of CTV News Toronto.


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Jennifer R. Strohm