Raccoons in the city can be infected with various diseases, including rabies and canine distemper virus. They live in all five boroughs of New York City and may be found living near or in your home.

Call 311 to report animals that show any of the below signs of rabies or distemper or are displaying other unusal behaviors. Never try to trap or catch a raccoon yourself.


Raccoons can transfer rabies to people and pets from a bite. While rare, it can also occur if saliva from a rabid animal enters an open cut or mucous membrane (eyes, nose or mouth).

Stay away from raccoons and other wildlife. Also keep pets away from wildlife.

A racoon with rabies may:

  • Appear sick or injured
  • Act lethargic
  • Have difficutly standing or walking
  • Appear confused or disoriented
  • Behave aggressively
  • Act unusally friendly

Canine Distemper Virus

Canine distemper virus cannot be spread to humans. Raccoons and skunks spread the virus to each other through contact with infectious saliva, feces, respiratory discharge or urine. Dogs can also get sick from the virus, but are usually protected by routine vaccinations. Check with your veterinarian to see if your dog is protected.

Raccoons that have the distemper virus may look like they have rabies. They may also have a runny nose and runny eyes.

Responding to a Bite

If you are bitten by a raccoon or if saliva from a raccoon enters an open cut or mucous membrane (eyes, nose or mouth):

  • Wash the wound with lots of soap and water.
  • Seek immediate medical care from your doctor or go to an emergency room.
  • Call 311 as soon as possible to report the raccoon bite. The Health Department will determine if the raccoon should be tested for rabies.

If your dog or cat is bitten or gets in a fight with a raccoon, contact your veterinarian and check whether its rabies vaccinations are up to date. If they are not, your pet may need to be isolated in a veterinary hospital.

Prevention and Tips

How to Keep Raccoons Out of Your Home or Yard

Raccoons typically look for safe, quiet areas to set up their dens. They will live almost anywhere, including sheds, rock piles, fireplace chimneys, hollow walls, attics or sewers.

To keep raccoons out of your home or yard:

  • Limit access to food in or near your home.
    • Do not feed your pets outside, as pet food can attract raccoons.
    • Keep your garbage area clean and garbage containers tightly covered.
    • Buy a raccoon-resistant covered trash can, or put a weight on the can’s lid so raccoons cannot open it.
  • Seal all openings to your home and garage, including outdoor sheds.
  • Trim tree branches. Raccoons can use trees to climb into your attic or onto your roof.
  • Sprinkle cayenne pepper around the area. Use with caution: it can be irritating to pets.

Remove an Intruder

If raccoons are in your home or yard, create an uncomfortable environment to encourage them to leave. Turn on bright or flashing lights and play loud music where the raccoons are living.

If these methods do not work, you may need to find and hire a professionally licensed Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator.

Once the raccoons have left, make sure they cannot return through the same way. Check for a torn window screen, an opening in the wall or roof and examine the chimney.

Additional Resources

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