Should You Avoid Touching Raccoons?

Many of our customers ask us whether it’s actually safe to touch, feed or play with raccoons. For the most part responsible people tend to avoid them, but with the many mixed messages about raccoon encounters out there and with the increase of people taking them on as pets, it’s difficult to know whether they’re actually safe to touch or not.

Statistics clearly show that it’s not safe to touch or engage raccoons no matter how friendly they appear to be. This is especially true for Southwestern Ontario where there is a current rabies epidemic within the raccoon population in particular areas of the province.

As of 2016 there were 171 confirmed rabid raccoons (source) in Ontario, and as of the end of 2017, there were an additional 149 confirmed cases of rabies, with raccoons making up the majority of them (source). The rabies epidemic has become so out of control that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has resorted to dropping rabies bait vaccines into their known habitats.

If you want to avoid contracting rabies, it’s safe to say you need to avoid touching raccoons and other forms of wildlife altogether.

DID YOU KNOW? As of January 16, 2018, a boy in Florida died after contracting rabies from a bat; and in 2003 an Arlington woman dies after contracting rabies from an infected raccoon.

The following is a table of raccoon encounters over the past 5 years that have resulted in severe injury or death:

Date and location of occurrence Type of injury
July 2012 – Lakewood, Washington woman knocked down and mauled by raccoons while walking dog
December 2017 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania raccoon attacks baby and drags her out of bed
November 2017 – Vancouver, BC woman attacked by pack of raccoons while walking dog
February 2003 – Arlington, Virginia woman contracted rabies from raccoon and died
July 2017 – New Orleans, Louisiana man and dog bit by raccoons and received rabies shot
May 2017 – Coral Springs, Florida teenage girl attacked by raccoons and underwent rabies vaccinations
May 2017 – Spring Lake, Michigan 14 year old girl attacked by raccoons and underwent facial reconstruction surgery
May 2017 – Raleigh, North Carolina raccoon attacked dog which had to undergo rabies a vaccination
March 2017 -Kendall, Florida veterinarian and cat attacked by rabid raccoon and underwent a rabies vaccination
June 2017 – Hope, Maine woman attacked by raccoons while jogging in forest underwent rabies vaccinations
June 2017 -Henrico, Virginia, raccoons break into man’s home and attacks him and he underwent rabies vaccination
January 2016 – Bergen County, New Jersey 6 year old boy mauled by a raccoon walking to school and he underwent rabies vaccination
December 2017 – Whistler, BC woman attacked by raccoon in backyard, bites and bleeding
November 2017 – Vancouver, BC woman ambushed by the group of raccoons as she walked her dogs – bites and bleeding
July 2017 – Vancouver, BC woman and her dog mauled by raccoon
July 2017 – Fairlington, Virginia woman attacked, sustained loss of blood and required 87 stitches
Feb 2018 – Scarborough, Ontario man attacked, sustained loss of blood, raccoon believed to be rabid

According to the Center for Disease Control in the United States there are approximately 7000 to 9000 reported annual cases of rabies, with a large portion of those cases stemming from encounters with raccoons.

Raccoons are generally passive creatures, but when they’ve contracted certain diseases like rabies, they tend to become quite aggressive and unpredictable. The average person cannot make an informed distinction between a healthy or sick raccoon so the advice is always to steer clear of them and to call animal control if the situation appears to require their services.

Confirmed locations of rabies in Ontario as of 2018

This map shows all the areas in Southwestern Ontario with confirmed cases of rabies as of January 24 2018:

Confirmed rabies Southwestern Ontario 2018

The following is a list of the cities, counties or regions in Ontario that have confirmed cases of rabies among raccoons:

  • Hamilton
  • Brant County
  • Haldimand
  • Norfolk County
  • Halton Region
  • Niagara Region
  • Wallenstein
  • Blyth
  • Guelph
  • Kitchener
  • Perth County
  • Huron County
  • Caledonia
  • Listowel
  • Gowanstown
  • Burlington
  • Port Colborne
  • Stoney Creek
  • Stratford
  • Scarborough

The list of cities above may not include current cases found, but will be updated when new areas of the province with confirmed cases are found.

Live map: 

The above map is updated weekly as new cases are confirmed.

Why would a raccoon attack me or my pet?

There are generally two reasons a raccoon would attack a human; to protect it’s babies, or because it has contracted a disease that is causing it to act erratically. Both these causes are reason for concern because there is technically no way to fully determine if the raccoon is in attack mode.

Usually we tend to think raccoons are docile and more afraid of us than we are of them but if you watch the video below you’ll see how aggressive, and scary an angry raccoon can be, and how quickly an encounter can escalate into a dangerous situation;

Note: we do not condone swatting wildlife with brooms as the person in the video below does; we are only interested in showing you how easy it is to get attacked by a raccoon:

What to do if you encounter a raccoon

The advice from all official agencies is that if you encounter a raccoon don’t try to touch or engage with it at all, and to also walk in the opposite direction as fast as you can. If the raccoon is in your home or attic, call your local raccoon removal company immediately and have them come out to your home to remove it safely as soon as possible.

There is enough data that points to how dangerous a raccoon encounter can turn out to be. The raccoon may seem friendly or even interested in being friendly with you you, but it can change it’s demeanour at any time and turn around and bite you.

If you get bit by a raccoon it’s important to go the a hospital emergency room as quickly as possible to determine if you’ve contracted rabies – don’t wait for symptoms to show signs because my the time you get medical attention it could be too late.

The quicker the hospital can determine if you’ve contracted rabies, the higher the chance the vaccine they give you will work.

Spread the word

Raccoons are dangerous, especially when it comes to children and pets. The more we become aware of this, the better the chance we have of avoiding a raccoon attack or an encounter. Feel free to share this article with your friends and family so they can understand the seriousness of the situation and no exactly what to do if they come across a raccoon in their backyard or daily travels.

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