Lots of things you can get at a convenience store aren’t great for your health, but I wouldn’t have thought we’d have to add rabies to the list of concerns.

Public health officials in Niagara Falls, NY, are trying to track down nine baby raccoons that were handed out by someone outside a 7-Eleven store. Rabies is the big concern, raccoons being an important rabies reservoir species in this area. However, the list of potential diseases that could be transmitted by these raccoons is longer than that, with leptospirosis and the raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis) being two other important issues.

As of the last report I saw, seven of the nine (too bad there weren’t eleven… that would have been funnier to report) baby raccoons had been recovered.

The list of reasons that handing out (or accepting) baby raccoons is bad is long, but to name just a few:

  • Wildlife belong in the wild.
  • Often, “rescued” baby wildlife are actually animals that were perfectly fine and temporarily left alone by their parents. Baby wildlife rescued by the public rarely survive and make it back to the wild.
  • Possession of wildlife is illegal in many areas, including New York state. Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators can posses wildlife, so that they are cared for properly and, when possible, re-introduced to the wild.
  • Baby raccoons are cute. However, they grow up to be large, curious and destructive adult raccoons that often end up being abandoned – but then they think they belong with people which makes them even bigger nuisances.
  • Baby raccoons rescued by members of the general public are often handled a lot in the process, leading to a lot of potential rabies exposures.
  • Wildlife belong in the wild.

More information about rabies (as well as leptospirosis) can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page.