Rabid raccoons in Ontario: minimize the risk

Ontario confirmed that there has been 71 case of rabid raccoons and 19 cases of rabid skunks in the Hamilton area between December and late April. After the outbreak in Hamilton, Ontario cities warn their citizens to keep safe distance from raccoons and other urban wildlife.

While the origins of the outbreak are unknown, Chris Davies, head of wildlife research with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, thinks that rabies could have started spreading in Ontario due to a hitchhiking incident: “We think it’s most likely that it was a hitchhiker — as in it came up on a truck from the United States”.

The outbreak was discovered entirely by accident in early December. After encountering an aggressive, infected raccoon, two mastiff dogs escaped from their backyard and had to be tracked down and placed into an animal control van.

How to recognize signs of rabies in animals?

The signs of rabies appear after the incubation period that lasts anywhere from 2 to 10 days. By this time, the disease is nearly always fatal. Raccoon rabies can be passed to people and pets.

The infected animal starts to show signs of anxiety, aggression, atypical behavior and seizures.

If you see a wild animal or a pet resembling signs of unnaturally confrontational or aggressive behavior, suspect rabies. For example, if you see a raccoon behaving in especially confrontational manner on your property during the day (which is highly atypical, since raccoons are nocturnal) – be careful, the animal might be infected.

No rabid animals so far have been identified in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph area. The average threat to the general public of Guelph remains low, but raccoons are known to travel great distances and migrate from town to town in search of food. Furthermore, the breeding period for raccoons starts in late April/early May, so the increase in raccoon activity is to be expected.

There are some measures you can take to minimize the risk:

  • Avoid all contact with urban wildlife and try to minimize the contact between the wildlife and pets.
  • Keep yourself informed: follow the news regarding rabies epidemics in your local area
  • Do not try to exterminate or attempt to remove raccoons or skunks from your property yourself. Call pest control or wildlife relocation services so they can take the best course of action.
  • Make sure your pets have proper vaccinations
  • If a person is bitten or scratched by ANY animal, call Public Health at 1-800-265-7293 ext. 4753 (8:30 a.m. – 4:30pm). After hours, call 1-877-884-8653.
  • If you notice a wild or stray animal behaving oddly or aggressively, call the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNRF) Rabies Hotline: 1-888-574-6656.

Stay safe!

Yours, Sleep Easy Pest Control