Raccoons do things that seem strange when compared to the behaviour of more familiar animals. Sometimes these masked bandits act so peculiar that you can’t help but wonder if they might have rabies. Here are some raccoon facts that will help you determine whether one is acting like a normal raccoon, or if it is exhibiting the following four signs of being rabid.
A healthy raccoon has a distinct way of moving. Instead of walking on its toes the way dogs and cats do, it goes along flat-footed. This type of locomotion causes it to waddle back and forth, resembling a tiny bear. When a raccoon has rabies, it instead staggers around as if drunk. It might also pick up its feet with every step as though the ground were burning them.
After another animal with rabies bites a raccoon, the virus in that animal’s saliva enters the raccoon’s body. The virus then spreads to the nerves closest to the bite, causing them to start working erratically. The raccoon feels pain and has trouble moving. Eventually, its back legs will become paralyzed and it will not be able to walk at all.
2. Acting Oblivious to Its Surroundings
It is normal for a raccoon to be out during the day, especially if there is food nearby or it has been disturbed from its sleep. It is also commonplace for neighbourhood raccoons to ignore you when you try to shoo them away from your trashcan. However, when one acts completely oblivious to its surroundings and everyone in them, it might have rabies.
Rabid raccoons sometimes become aggressive. They pick fights with dogs, porcupines, and other species they would normally avoid as if they don’t realize that they could get hurt. At the other extreme, rabid raccoons sometimes act tame, wandering around aimlessly and approaching people without fear. Either behaviour is a warning sign that one could be sick.
3. Having Wet and Matted Fur
Excess mucus and foamy saliva matted in the facial fur are telltale signs of rabies. The virus causes the throat to spasm, making it impossible for animals to swallow. Saliva then accumulates in the mouth and dribbles down into the fur. The eyes and nose also run with discharge, adding to the wet appearance.
Under normal circumstances, raccoons instinctually groom themselves by using their paws and teeth to remove anything stuck to their fur. They also lick themselves clean, similar to the way cats do. The rabies virus interferes with these normal behaviours, so they begin to look dirty and dishevelled.
4. Making Repeated, High-Pitched Vocalizations
A raccoon making a weird noise does not necessarily have rabies. Raccoons communicate with each other using over 200 sounds, so it is always possible for one to surprise you by purring, chittering, whimpering, or making some other sound you have never heard before.
Raccoons with rabies make sounds that express their feelings of disorientation and pain. Repeated high-pitched vocalizations such as screams and screeches are especially common. They may also snap their jaws as they appear to bite at objects that are not there. People refer to this common behaviour among rabid animals as fly-biting.
What To Do When You See a Rabid Raccoon
Rabies is a potentially fatal disease that spreads to humans through animal saliva, so don’t take a chance with any animal you suspect might be sick. Instead, contact Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control for wildlife removal in Okanagan. Our technicians have experience with raccoon behaviours and can help determine if you might have a rabies problem in your neighbourhood. We can also help prevent raccoons from coming onto your property again. Call us today to discuss how we can help.