The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has received numerous reports of sick raccoons with symptoms consistent with rabies or canine distemper infections. Members of the public should exercise caution and avoid interacting with sick wildlife.
Rabies is a virus that can affect all mammals, including humans, and is deadly if left untreated. However, raccoon-variant rabies has not been identified in West Tennessee and is not suspected by the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) at this time.
Canine distemper also is caused by a virus and affects many carnivore species, including dogs, coyotes, raccoons, and foxes, but it has not been seen to affect humans. Canine distemper occurs naturally in wild populations.
Outbreaks of distemper tend to occur every 5-7 years and have been seen when raccoon populations become highly concentrated. No cure exists for the disease, although with a 50 percent mortality rate, some animals will survive.
This disease can be transferred from raccoons to dogs, and pet owners should take precautions to limit exposure. If you see a sick raccoon, do not approach or attempt to handle sick wildlife. Keep children and pets away from sick wildlife. Keep pet vaccines up to date to prevent infection. Do not feed raccoons and remove possible food sources like garbage cans, pet food bowls, and compost piles.
If a wild animal has bitten a person or pet, contact the county health department (731-584-4944) or TDH (615-741-7247 or 615-687-7033) for an animal bite consultation and risk assessment.
TWRA does not have staff to provide animal removal services. Members of the public who need assistance with animal removal should contact local pest removal services or animal control.
For more information on canine distemper, rabies, and other wildlife diseases, please visit the TWRA and TDH websites at www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife/wildlife-disease.html or www.tn.gov/health/cedep/zoonotic-diseases/rabies.html.