Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Five raccoons shot in city over 10 days

Rash not blamed on distemper

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Winnipeg police have shot and killed five raccoons in the past 10 days as a result of the animals being injured or acting aggressively.

But a Manitoba Conservation official said the aggressive raccoons are not associated with an outbreak of the canine distemper virus in the raccoon population.

"What makes (raccoons) aggressive is when people go up to them and handle them and remove them," provincial wildlife biologist Dean Berezanski said. "If people don't approach them, there won't be a problem."

Winnipeg police said there have been a large number of animal calls from the public from the city's east end since Aug. 12.

Police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said officers responding to an animal call decide what is the most appropriate course of action, with public safety paramount.

Michalyshen said police respond to all sorts of animal reports, including deer crashing into property and even recently a fox in a downtown parkade.

Michalyshen said officers would only shoot and kill an animal if it was deemed necessary.

"Are we dealing with a sick animal? Are we dealing with an injured animal? Does this animal pose a risk to the public?" Michalyshen said. "We may have to put an animal down based on those decisions."

Manitoba Conservation issued a warning at the beginning of July that canine distemper had been discovered in raccoons in the Winnipeg area for the first time.

However, Berezanski said canine distemper makes raccoons lethargic, adding infected animals do not act aggressively unless cornered.

"It's understandable if people have never dealt with (raccoons) in this situation before, they could become concerned," Berezanski said.

"I'm certainly not going to argue if they fear for their lives or their safety and they can't get hold of one our staff, why they'd want to call the police."

Manitoba Conservation and private pest-control companies routinely trap about 1,300 raccoons within Winnipeg every year.

Berezanski said Conservation staff have removed 78 raccoons from the Winnipeg area since July, adding that is a typical number for summer months.

Berezanski said what has been unusual this summer has been reports of raccoons in East Kildonan area, where they were never seen before.

It's normal to see raccoons along the corridors of the Assiniboine and Red rivers, he said, but added raccoons have been seen for the first time far away from the Red, near the Gateway Road and Green Avenue areas.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Raccoons and canine distemper

-- What is it? A virus transmitted among dogs and raccoons that can cause neurological and respiratory problems. Humans are not at risk.

-- Symptoms in a raccoon: Mucus discharge around the eyes and nasal passages.

Makes raccoons lethargic; hampers breathing; not aggressive.

 

-- Symptoms in a dog: Progressive deterioration of mental abilities and motor skills.

 

-- What to do: Ensure your dog is vaccinated.

Do not feed pets outside. Keep garbage secured and inaccessible to raccoons. Do not use bird feeders during summer months.

 

-- Who to contact: If you see a raccoon suspected of canine distemper, leave it alone. If a raccoon is damaging property, call Manitoba Conservation, 204-945-5221. If a raccoon is acting aggressively, call 911.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 23, 2012 B3

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