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Central Park Raccoons to Get Rabies Shots

Raccoon spectacleManhattan raccoons, faced with an epidemic of rabies, are going to get trapped, vaccinated and tagged (so they don’t have to go through the ordeal a second time.) There was a mild panic this winter in the city as rabies started showing up in the raccoons of Central Park and upper Manhattan.

People may have panicked more if they realized how many raccoons really live in this densely packed city. The New York City Health Department has found 49 rabid raccoons in Manhattan, mostly in the top 13 blocks of Central Park. (Oddly, the state isn’t keeping  up.) As a wildlife rehabber I get calls from people who just spot raccoons in the city. The raccoons are fine, but people assume something is terribly wrong if a raccoon is living here.

That’s a relief to animal lovers who feared they’d just be rounded up and euthanized–an animal control strategy that usually doesn’t work because new animals just move into the undefended territory.

If you go on an owl walk at dusk in summer in the North Woods of Central Park, you’ll be amazed at how many raccoons you’ll see. They’ll be sleepily climbing out of tree cavities and holes between boulders to start their day.

Racoon wakes up around dusk

American pets don’t get rabies much anymore because they get vaccines. The northeast has a huge population of  rabid raccoons thanks to hunters who imported them from dealers, John Hadidian, head of the Humane Society of the United State‘s Urban Wildlife program. The American Journal of Public Health  traced the outbreak to hunters who in the late 70s illegally imported raccoons from Florida animal dealers to shoot. At the time the southeast accounted for 98% of raccoon rabies diagnoses. One quarter of shipments later studied had rabid animals. Begging racoons

Where to See Wild Animals Around New York City

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