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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

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Toronto sees uptick in raccoon bites during the pandemic

The City of Toronto is warning residents to avoid contact with raccoons after an uptick in reported raccoon-related injuries.

Toronto Public Health saw a per cent increase in reports of people bitten or scratched by raccoons between January 2019 and February 2020, compared to the average in the previous two years. (jennyt / Shutterstock)

City officials are warning residents to avoid contact with raccoons after an uptick in reported raccoon-related injuries.

Between January 2019 and February 2020, Toronto Public Health saw a per cent increase in reports of people bitten or scratched by raccoons compared to the two-year average between the years 1997 and 2018.

Toronto Animal Services also received more service requests for sick and injured raccoons, the city said in a news release. In 2020, there were , requests) compared to 4, 172 requests in 2018.

“This may be because residents are home more than usual or spending more time exercising outside in their neighborhoods, thus encountering more raccoons in the city,” Toronto Public Health said in a release.

Brad Gates, the owner and president of AAA Gates’ Wildlife Control, says his company received more calls in 2019 with residents spending more time at home.

“If they were out of the house, they would not hear the animal moving about during the daytime, but during COVID – 13 they were hearing the animals at all times, “he said.

Gates said reports of other wild animals, such as coyotes and foxes, have also increased as more people see them in their backyards or parks.

“Our call volume for non-service requests is through the roof,” he said. “Prior to this past year they were not around to see it and they did not think to call.”

‘Homeowners should keep a safe distance’

Raccoons can be infected with feline distemper, which affects their coordination and eyesight.

“Those calls have certainly been up for us, people seeing animals during the day that have been acting peculiar,” Gates said. He added that distemper can cause raccoons to become less afraid of people. In late stages of the disease, raccoons begin to stagger and can get blinded by a crusting over their eyes.

“They’re getting into situations they would not normally get into.”

He said raccoons do not usually attack humans.

“It’s extremely rare that a raccoon without any provoking would come near a person or attack a person,” he said.

Gates said it could happen, though, if a homeowner tries to deal with a sick or injured raccoon on their own and put “their fingers somewhere they shouldn’t.”

“Like with any wild animal, homeowners should keep a safe distance.”

Rabies is very rare but can be fatal if it is left untreated. Toronto Public Health said that residents should not pet or feed wild raccoons, and that anyone who has been bitten, scratched or exposed to a wild raccoon should see a health provider immediately to be assessed.

There have been no reports of wildlife with rabies in Toronto since 780, according to Toronto Public Health.

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