Chesterfield, Wildwood raccoons display signs of distemper
Angel Wintrode, director at the Bi-State Wildlife Hotline, a not for profit organization that assists the public with sick, injured and orphaned wildlife issued a warning Sept. 27 for residents in the Wild Horse Creek area of Chesterfield and Wildwood concerning sick racoons.
“Our organization normally helps residents with wildlife education and takes in sick and orphaned wildlife, heals and/or raises them, then releases them back to the wild when they are well or old enough to survive again on their own,” Wintrode said. “Lately though, we are getting an abnormal amount of calls from the Wild Horse Creek/Chesterfield and Wildwood area concerning sick raccoons. We are the only organization in the St. Louis area that will come out on site to rescue/pick up a sick animal in this way (including the county animal control), and we’re noticing that lately these calls are concentrated in one area.”
Wintrode said these raccoons are sick with distemper, which can cause an animal to have severe brain swelling making them act as though they are drunk, walking in slow motion, stumbling, out during the day wandering aimlessly, and often dragging their hind end along with them not using their back legs properly. The animal may also have yellow discharge from their eyes and a lot of nasal drainage as well, but not always.
She said these animals are not aggressive but that they do not run away from people or dogs, making it “a fairly high risk situation for residents, their children and their pets.”
“Distemper is contagious to dogs – not people – and that is where our main concern lies,” Wintrode said. “We want to make sure that area residents check with their veterinarian to ensure that their dogs are up to date on their distemper vaccinations.”
Cats cannot get this disease, and neither can humans, Wintrode stressed. She said that many of the hotline’s callers are concerned that a raccoon has rabies when they see it out during the day. While that is remotely possible in raccoons, the state of Missouri has not had a reported case of rabies in raccoons in over 60 years.
“It is much more likely that the animal has distemper opposed to rabies,” Wintrode said.
Residents who come in contact with a raccoon that looks sick can call the hotline 24 hours a day at 492-1610.
As a not-for-profit organization, Bi-State Wildlife Hotline does request donations when they make house calls. Their website (wildlifehotline.com) has more information regarding the organization and distemper in racoons.