Public health officers from the Niagara County Department of Health Division of Environmental Health Rabies Control Program are seeking information on the whereabouts of a man with a raccoon seen circulating at the Music and Arts Festival in Niagara Falls this past Friday. The individual was seen posing for photographs with a raccoon on his shoulder at the vicinity of Old Falls Street and Rainbow Boulevard at around 6 p.m.
Health department officials are concerned about possible rabies exposure and are requesting anyone who knows the individual with the raccoon, or anyone who touched the raccoon, call the rabies prevention program at 716-439-7511.
Raccoons are considered a vector species for rabies virus and pose a risk to humans and domestic animals. Rabies is a lethal virus that infects the central nervous system of humans and other mammals. Anyone who has touched this raccoon needs to be evaluated for exposure.
"Please remember, if you see wildlife, please do not touch it. Enjoy it from afar to protect yourself and others from injury and disease," Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton said.
The Department of Environmental Conservation has strict laws against harboring wild raccoons and displaying them to the public. When an individual encounters a wild animal that is injured or orphaned, he or she should call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, and not try to capture or touch the animal. Wildlife rehabilitators are the only people legally authorized by the DEC to receive and treat distressed wildlife. They have the expertise and facilities to successfully treat wild animals, with the goal of releasing the recovered animals back into the wild. By law, rehabilitators are not allowed to keep or display animals they help.
"It is very important that you call the Niagara County Department of Health Environmental Division at 716-439-7511 if you can identify the man with the raccoon or believe you touched a raccoon at the Music and Arts Festival," Stapleton emphasized. "Contacting us allows our rabies prevention program staff to make the best and most timely decisions regarding your safety."
More information about rabies disease can be found at: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/precauti.htm.