Central Park Raccoons Dying from ‘Canine Distemper’ Virus

A raccoon in Central Park.

Canine distemper, a virus that can be deadly in animals, has recently been spreading among Central Park raccoons. Two have tested positive for the virus, and the parks department suspects that 24 other raccoons that have recently died also had contracted the virus.

The raccoons have not tested positive for rabies. And the canine distemper disease cannot be passed to humans, the city says.

Canine distemper can also be contracted by dogs, but any dog that s up to date with its shots shouold be protected according to the city Department of Health.

The parks department sent us the following information:

“26 raccoons found in Central Park

  • 13 tested negative for rabies
  • 9 waiting on results
  • 3 could not be tested due to advanced decay / carcass condition
  • 1 found Saturday, July 21 (will be sent for testing)

NYC Parks Rangers reported, collected and identified the raccoons. Most reports came to us from employees (CPC or parks) or our wildlife partners (Wild Bird Fund).  Only a few came from the public.

The first raccoons were collected on 6/24 and 6/28 – E. 72nd and 102nd streets respectfully. The majority of them were found north in the park (7/8, 10, 11, 13, 14 and 17) between E. 93rd to 110th/Lenox Ave. area. Additionally, 7/17 and 19, others were found to the south between the Delacort Theater, the reservoir and Grand Army Plaza.

Raccoons have had a significant presence in Central Park for years—we do not believe there has been an increase. Parks does not have a population count.”

The Health Department also sent out some information.

“The Health Department and NYC Parks recently discovered raccoons infected with distemper in Central Park. No raccoons have tested positive for rabies. Test results have not discovered any risk to human health. The Health Department will continue to monitor the extent and duration of the condition.”


•Distemper is a viral illness that affects dogs and certain species of wildlife including raccoons and skunks
•There are no health risk to humans
•There is no concern for pets if their distemper vaccinations are up to date
•Distemper spreads when animals make contact with infected saliva, feces,respiratory discharge or urine
•Avoid wildlife and check to see if your pet’s vaccines are up to date
•Raccoons with distemper act disoriented and lethargic, and they can become aggressive
•The public should call 311 if they see a sick or injured raccoon
•The Health Department will continue to monitor the extent and duration of the condition


NEWS, OUTDOORS | 18 comments | permalink
    1. Dave says:

      While it is genuinely terrific to have all sorts of wildlife abound in the NYC Parks, there should have been a more aggressive culling program regarding the Racoons started at least a decade ago. There are just too many.

      • Craig says:

        If there’s no population count (unbelievably!) why do you think there are too many?

        • dannyboy says:

          One indication:

          “Distemper in raccoons is “more likely to occur” when populations are “large or concentrated,” according to Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.”

        • dannyboy says:

          dogs and domestic puppies and dogs can become infected with canine distemper through airborne exposure (such as sneezing or coughing) from a dog or wild animal that is infected, the American Veterinary Medical Association reports. Additionally, it can spread through shared food or water bowls and equipment.

    2. BILLYNYC says:


      • Beverly says:

        Hard to stay away, Billiy, when they hide on branches of trees that we walk under in Central Park.

    3. dannyboy says:

      Lots of assurances until you get to the buried lede:

      “Raccoons with distemper act disoriented and lethargic, and they can become aggressive”

    4. Sue Epler says:

      Why not vaccinate for distemper? Yes, raccoons are wild animals, but they interface with domesticated and feral cats plus humans. Is there any reason to protect the population of raccoons from animals whose humans have neglected to vaccinate them?

    5. Allison says:

      Cats can also contract distemper!

    6. Patricia says:

      At least the poor raccoons were collected “respectfully”.

    7. YoungSally says:

      Raccoons can be very nasty creatures when you least expect it….I always give them a wide berth…especially when I am with my dogs

    8. Dominic says:


    9. DrM says:

      Just a PSA from your neighborhood vet: Risk of distemper is not absent in vaccinated dogs. Although the risk is MUCH much lower let’s remember what vaccines do: They help the animal develop antibodies to fight disease should they be exposed, they do not prevent disease or transmission. Also, cats cannot get canine distemper. Cats are routinely vaccinated with a vaccine, FVRCP, that some commonly refer to as ‘kitty distemper’. This is a misnomer. The ‘RCP’ stands for rhinovirus, calicivirus and panleukopenia virus. Just some info to clarify. 😊

      • dannyboy says:

        “Also, cats cannot get canine distemper.”

        The “canine” word was a giveaway, but thanks for additional reassurance; Suki appreciates people showing concern for her welfare.

    10. Raphael Zinman says:

      Just saw what I think may be a dead baby raccoon in the park not far from the bridal path by W. 72nd St. unvaccinated pup owners beware!

    11. Jane says:

      There IS a treatment for distemper in all mammals. Developed by Dr. Alson Sears, DVM retired, the basic protocols for vets are posted on http://www.kindheartsinaction.com The dog protocols and examples are featured but this can be applied to other animals. You can email the webmaster and ask to speak to Doc Sears or Jane who managed the trials that went on perfecting the protocols in 2010 and 11. Vets or their assistants only. Webmaster has a list of vets worldwide currently applying the protocols if you have a sick animal.

      • dannyboy says:

        Jane, You and DrM deserve a lot of credit for providing factual information.

        It counterbalances the information issued by the Parks Department and the misinformation campaign of several Comments.