Sick raccoons plague Glenwood Springs
Sick raccoons are turning up in odd places in Glenwood Springs, and police chief Terry Wilson urges everyone to be cautious if they spot one.
The sick animals are disoriented and clumsy, and their eyes are swollen and infected. The otherwise nocturnal raccoons have been spotted in yards and under cars during the day.
“They can’t see well, so they are winding up in spots you wouldn’t normally see them,” Wilson said.
“But when they sense something close or get touched, they react in an extremely defensive manner,” Wilson said. “They’ll start ripping, shredding and biting.
“We’re very concerned about kids. They see a cute fuzzy raccoon and try to touch it – they’re going to get torn up,” Wilson said.
No one has been injured so far by a sick raccoon, but the police department has received a dozen calls about the ill animals since Monday.
So far, the sick raccoons have been spotted by adults, who have kept their distance and called police.
Wilson said Colorado Division of Wildlife officers have answered the calls with police officers, and veterinarian Marguerite Flett is assisting.
“A DOW officer tried to capture one. It slipped the noose and charged him,” Wilson said.
The sick raccoons have been dispatched, but samples have been sent to the state veterinarian’s office in Fort Collins for diagnosis.
Flett and wildlife officers believe the raccoons are suffering from canine distemper, which affects brain functions. But they also want to rule out the remote possibility that the animals have rabies, Wilson said.
Wildlife officers have seen similar disease outbreaks among raccoons before. The sickness tends to be widespread, and will last until the raccoons go into hibernation for the winter. At that point, the sick ones will die and only the uninfected ones will survive the winter.
But the time for hibernation is still weeks away, and Wilson urged residents to be cautious, particularly with children and pets.
Children should be carefully warned not to approach or touch a raccoon, but to call an adult if they see one.
People should call police, and keep an eye on the animal so officers can capture it, Wilson said.
Residents should also watch their pets carefully and take them to the veterinarian for a distemper vaccination.
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