Before letting the dog out one last time before turning in, Santa Barbara County Public Health advises pet owners to scan their yards for a nocturnal raccoon. Not only can the two species get into fights, said Jennifer Adame, a community outreach coordinator with Public Health, on average, one raccoon a day has been reported exhibiting symptoms of distemper since December. As the canine virus is highly contagious, dog owners are also reminded to make sure their animals are current on vaccinations.
Since reports first surfaced in October 2017, distemper continues to ravage the raccoon community in the City of Santa Barbara and areas of the South County. Distemper is ever-present in the environment, and raccoons contract it from body fluids or droppings from infected animals, according to Oregon Fish & Wildlife. As raccoon populations become concentrated or large, outbreaks can spread between them and dogs, foxes, coyotes, and skunks via urine or scat.
Sick animals often have discharge from the nose and eyes, a rough coast, emaciation, and disorientation or aimless wandering. They can appear calm, but they can react aggressively if approached. Santa Barbara officials advise calling County Animal Control at (805) 681-5285) if a sick animal is suspected. The city’s Animal Control unit can be reached at (805) 963-1513.
As well as making sure no raccoons are in the yard, Public Health advises keeping dogs on leash when outdoors and eliminating food or animal feed from the outdoors, including keeping trash can lids tight.