Disease killing raccoons

Nobody who’s spent much time outdoors thinks Mother Nature is always nice.

The past two weeks I’ve seen where she’s being pretty rough on a lot of raccoons.

Every time I’ve spent time scouting, hunting or taking photos around a section of land southeast of the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge I find freshly dead raccoons and ‘coons in the act of dying.

Low fur prices and quality habitat has the Kansas raccoon population very high. Canine distemper is working through the population, killing many.

Low fur prices and quality habitat has the Kansas raccoon population very high. Canine distemper is working through the population, killing many.

It’s not pretty but it’s not uncommon, according to Matt Peek, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks furbearer biologist.

“Most likely it’s distemper,” Peek said. “When you get multiple dead raccoons in a place like this that’s what it’s always been in my experience.”

In all I’ve found about a dozen dead and dying raccoons by road or field edges. The ones that are ill are staggering around in broad daylight or spinning in very slow circles. They show no fear of humans.

Peek said the disease is canine distemper, the same kind that can infect dogs, coyotes and foxes.

“Gray foxes are very susceptible ,” Peek said. “That’s possibly a factor to why we don’t have many gray foxes in Kansas.”

Some online checking revealed canine distemper is fairly common in raccoons across their range. It’s usually fatal to individual animals though enough remain uninfected to repopulate an area quickly.

Cyclic, it often returns every five to seven years in areas with high raccoon populations.

Canine distemper is usually spread from animal to animal or can be contracted by contact with animal fluids or feces.

Humans can not contract the disease. Dogs with current distemper vaccinations shouldn’t be at risk.