Distemper Deaths Among Central Park Raccoons Reach 149; Leash Advisory Remains in Effect

By Carol Tannenhauser

As of Wednesday, August 22nd, the Parks Department has “collected” 149 raccoons with canine distemper in Central Park, according to Kelly Krause, a Parks Department spokesperson. That is more than twice the number as last reported on August 4th.

The disease cannot be transmitted to humans or vaccinated dogs, experts say. Symptoms include disorientation, lethargy, nasal discharge, and violent spasms. Aggression is possible.

On Thursday, Krause confirmed that the outbreak — first reported on July 24th — persists, unabated. “We are continuing to discover raccoons with the disease,” she emailed WSR.

As a result, dog owners are still “advised” to keep their dogs on leash at all times, even during legal off-leash hours. “The Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) is continuing to monitor the extent and duration of the situation and will lift the advisory once it deescalates,” Krause wrote.

When that will be is hard to predict, according to Dr. Sally Slavinski, a veterinarian and assistant director at DOHMH. “Like all outbreaks, human or animal, it will probably run its course and the survivors — those who get mildly ill or don’t get sick at all — will be immunized against infection in the future. Then, as the population increases, we could see more cases in the years ahead.”

Two people were bitten or scratched recently in Central Park, when their dogs attacked ailing raccoons and they tried to separate them. If you do opt to let your dog off leash — as most sanguine New York dog owners seem wont to do — be careful, and call 311 if you see a sick raccoon.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 13 comments | permalink
    1. Juan says:

      I think there are a lot of frequent posters on West Side Rag who have many of these symptoms, particularly aggression. If I had a dog, I would not let them near it either.

    2. Lisa says:

      This makes me so sad. Poor little raccoons. Vaccinate your dogs, people!

    3. DrM says:

      I ❤ Juan’s comment.

    4. Elizabet M. says:

      If you are a responsible and considerate dog owner you would not risk your dog’s health and well-being
      by letting them off leash. Not only could they get sick but also injured by a raccoon. It is also cruel to let a dog attack a sick raccoon. Why do so many people feel they don’t have to follow the rules? I don’t take chances with my dog’s safety. Don’t take chances; keep your dog on leash until it safe to let them off.

      • EricaC says:

        It isn’t against the rules at certain times of day. But I otherwise, I completely agree with you.

    5. Judith Cohen says:

      Is the same true of Riverside Park as well or only Central Park?

    6. Tricia Weber says:

      Several of us on W. 77th St. I have seen a daily occurrence of raccoon furball’s in the vestibules of the brownstones. Is this because they’re on well and they’re rolling around on the floor ? I haven’t seen a raccoon in our gate there are obvious signs raccoons have been there including feces. Should I report this to 311?

    7. Laura says:

      I read reports that not all raccoon had distemper and many were euthanized without testing for it.

    8. Harold says:

      I’ve seen quite a few people who act as if the have distemper.

    9. Laura says:

      I read reports on various news sites stating only some raccoons tested for distemper and some were not even tested.

    10. J.K. says:

      The park is a sanctuary for everybody, including wildlife that is not a danger to humans or any other animal. It appears this situation with the raccoons is escalating and “whoever” is in charge is unable to get a handle on this outbreak bc this is still happening and expanding. I am curious as to why Central Park even has/needs raccoons. Central Park is a gift to NYC amid a concrete jungle…Those that advise to make sure a dog is vaccinated, FYI: Once your dog is a certain age, especially a senior dog, certain vaccines are no longer given to a canine. Ask any vet..So my question is, “What is the purpose of having raccoons in Central Park?”

    11. SC says:

      i thought NYC laws stated dogs on leashes in public all the time?