raccoon attacks toronto

Sick and injured raccoons are attacking people all over Toronto

Toronto's unofficial mascot may be the city's latest menace, as reports of sick and injured raccoons attacking people have spiked to worrying levels this year.

Toronto Public Health (TPH) issued a warning to the public on Thursday, advising residents to steer clear of raccoons and all other wild animals, citing "a significant increase in the number of sick and injured raccoons and in the number of reported cases of people bitten and/or scratched by raccoons."

TPH has registered 88 such raccoon attacks as of May 31, a staggering 117 per cent increase in reports compared to the five-year average spanning from 2018 to 2022.

Many of these cases are likely preventable and TPH cautions that reports are often the result of interactions, including feeding, petting, or other voluntary physical contact with raccoons.

The main concern with raccoon bites and scratches is rabies infection. This year, more than 80 per cent of those bitten or scratched by these animals have been treated with rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment, a not-at-all-enjoyable series of multiple vaccine dose injections.

"We remind everyone to avoid contact with raccoons and other wild animals to minimize exposure to rabies," said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health.

"Treatment is very uncomfortable and avoidable. If necessary, it's most effective if started promptly after the exposure," continued de Villa, warning that "the rabies vaccine is extremely effective but must be administered before symptoms appear."

The actual risk of infection may be low, but if left untreated, a bite or scratch from a raccoon carrying the disease could prove fatal.

Public health officials advise that if one comes into direct physical contact with a raccoon, the contaminated area (anywhere that touched the animal's open mouth) should be washed with soap and water for at least 15 minutes and treated with an antiseptic before seeking immediate medical attention.

Pets are also at risk, and owners are advised to keep their furry friends away from trash pandas — regardless of rabies risk. Vaccinating pets against rabies is not only recommended but required in Ontario after the pet is three months old.

If you spot a raccoon — whether it looks sick, injured, or completely healthy — TPH advises to stay away and not risk contact. Raccoons that appear ill or are behaving oddly are of particular concern and residents should contact 311 to report sightings.

First and foremost, don't feed them — however adorable they may be with their little bandit masks and stripey tails. This is one critter you will just have to admire safely from afar.

Lead photo by

A Great Capture

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