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Don’t feed wild animals, health department advises

Durham Region Health Department is reminding area residents to avoid close contact with wild animals such as raccoons, including feeding or petting, as these animals pose a risk of rabies to humans.

Recently, the Health Department received a report of a child who was bitten by a raccoon while attempting to feed the animal at Lynde Shores Conservation area. As a result of the biting incident, the child had to receive anti-rabies post-exposure treatment.

“The Health Department has received a number of reports of wildlife coming into close contact with visitors, including animals eating food out of people’s hands, at Lynde Shores Conservation area in Whitby,” explained Ross MacEachern, manager, Environmental Health with Durham Region Health Department. “Any bite or scratch to a human from a wild animal, such as a raccoon, could result in either the animal being euthanized and tested for the rabies virus, or the victim having to undergo anti-rabies treatment.”

The Health Department has also used social media to advise the public not to feed the raccoons and is working with the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority, as well as Town of Whitby Animal Services, to develop and implement strategies to help address this ongoing concern at Lynde Shores Conservation Area.

Anyone who has been bitten or scratched by a raccoon or other wild animal is urged to call the Health Department at 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613. If you are calling after 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday or on weekends, call 1-800-372-1104.

“It’s important for people to remember that rabies can be found in wild animals such as raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats, and that everyone needs to be cautious and avoid close contact with raccoons and other wildlife,” MacEachern said.