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Toronto Animal Services warns of distemper outbreak after raccoon seen wandering supermarket


Toronto Animal Services (TAS) is urging residents to not approach, touch, or feed racoons after one critter was recently seen wandering around a supermarket in Toronto’s west end.

This warning comes after a recent increase in the number of service requests for sick and injured wildlife, which TAS said is “partially a result of a distemper outbreak within Toronto’s raccoon population.”

Believed to be a continuation from a notable spate of cases seen last fall, they said that this latest outbreak is due to the mild winter.

Cases of distemper are now spreading into wards in the city’s west and north ends, Jasmine Herzog-Evans, manager of TAS’ enforcement and mobile response unit, told CTV News Toronto.

Herzog-Evans noted that this outbreak is not uncommon among the city’s raccoon population and is something that occurs every two to three years, adding that while so far there are no reported cases in the pet population, service requests for sick and injured wildlife are significantly up.

From Jan. 1 to April 20, TAS said it received 3,601 service requests, compared to 719 service requests for the same period in 2022. Comparatively, during the distemper outbreak this fall (from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2022), Toronto Animal Services got 3,722 service requests for sick and injured raccoons.

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) is generally present in the raccoon population and those who have it may “approach people or curl up to sleep in open areas in close proximity to people.” Raccoons with this fatal virus tend to “act disoriented or lethargic, may appear blind and confused, wander aimlessly or become aggressive if cornered.”

A notable mucus discharge is also often be present around the eyes and nose of racoons with the illness and sick animals may experience coughing, tremors, seizures, or chewing fits, the city said.

And while CDV cannot be transmitted to human beings, dogs can contract it if they have not been vaccinated or if they come into contact with an infected animal. raccoon.

To help keep people and pets safe, the City of Toronto is reminding people to never feed or interact with wildlife, even if an animal seems tame or sick, always keep a dog on a leash or supervised in off-leash areas, make sure their pets’ vaccinations are up to date, not feed pets, including leaving pet food out as it will attract raccoons and wild animals, properly dispose of waste in parks and at home, and wildlife-proof their homes and yards.

It should also be noted that as of April 1 it is illegal to feed wildlife in Toronto.

Residents can contact 311 if they see a raccoon or other wildlife displaying abnormal behaviour.

It is not known if the trash panda spotted strolling in a local grocery store has distemper, however their behaviour is out of the ordinary.

Customer Alex Chow, who took a short video of the animal inside the Loblaws at 650 Dupont St. and posted it to Twitter, said he kept a safe distance from the animal just in case it was sick or injured.

In his 32-second clip, the racoon is seen walking in and around cashier stalls at the front of the store.

“It was quite the novelty,” he told on Monday morning.

“It’s not every day that you see a racoon strolling in a supermarket.” Top Stories

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