PROSPECT PARK – The NYC Parks Department has issued a warning about cases of raccoons with the canine distemper found in Prospect Park.
The canine distemper virus doesn’t pose a health risk to humans, but dogs are susceptible to the disease. Owners are encouraged to keep their dogs leashed while at Prospect Park.
Dogs can become infected by contact with “infected saliva, feces, respiratory discharge or urine,” from sick raccoons, according to the Parks Department.
While raccoons with distemper may appear to be rabid—runny nose and eyes, lethargic—no raccoons have tested positive for rabies in the park. But similar to rabid animals, raccoons with distemper may be confused or disoriented, and could become aggressive.
Warnings have been posted in Prospect Park, and boosted on Twitter by FIDO Brooklyn:
The warning follows two positive tests for canine distemper in raccoons that were caught in Prospect Park at the end of September—one on the east side of the park, and one near the Picnic House in Long Meadow, said a representative from the Parks Department.
While Central Park and Pelham Bay Park have both seen outbreaks of distemper over the summer, the Parks Department made it clear that it was highly unlikely the Brooklyn cases had spread from there, as urban raccoons typically don’t travel more than 1-2 miles, and a sick raccoon would be unlikely to survive the trip.
So far, there haven’t been reports of attacks in Brooklyn, but a woman was bitten in Central Park over the summer. Eighty-five raccoons had fallen sick with distemper and died, NBC reported at the time.
Make sure your dogs are up on their rabies and distemper vaccinations, if they aren’t and they get bit, they may have to be quarantined.
If you or your dog are bitten by a raccoon, definitely call 311—the city will attempt to trap and test the raccoon for rabies.
As always, be careful around the wild animals that call Brooklyn’s parks home!