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Canine distemper virus found in a number of raccoons in the area

Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds dog owners to get their pets vaccinated
Luke Clancy, a wildlife manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, attempts to lure a sick raccoon that may have canine distemper virus Monday behind the post office in Durango. (Nicholas A. Johnson/Durango Herald)

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has responded to multiple cases of canine distemper among raccoons in La Plata County.

“We are seeing it pretty widespread around the area right now,” said CPW spokesman John Livingston. “It is common with some of our carnivores like skunks or raccoons.”

Over the weekend, the Durango Police Department received four calls about sick raccoons.

While humans can’t contract distemper, CPW said residents should watch out for their pets’ welfare.

“It can be transmitted to domestic dogs who are unvaccinated,” Livingston said. “We recommend that you make sure your pets are up-to-date on their shots.”

Livingston said pet owners should make sure dogs are on a leash when on walks, and residents should keep an eye out for raccoons in backyards.

“It’s always good to remind people not to keep food and water bowls for their pets outside; that does attract wildlife into your yard,” he said.

Securing trash is another way to keep raccoons away from residents’ yards and keep pets safe, he said.

The rise in distemper cases among raccoons comes weeks after a gray fox carcass found outside Bayfield town limits tested positive for distemper.

“It’s hard to say which came first as they are kind of common in those species,” Livingston said.

It can often be difficult to tell the difference between an animal with distemper and rabies, as they have very similar symptoms.

Animals with distemper often have difficulty moving, and act abnormally because of the infection in the brain. Other symptoms include crusting around the eyes and nose, coughing, diarrhea, vomiting and thickened paw pads.

Because distemper is difficult to distinguish from rabies, CPW urges anyone who comes in contact with animals showing such symptoms to report it to San Juan Basin Public Health.

On Monday, Luke Clancy, a wildlife manager with CPW, and volunteer Javier Magaña responded to a call about a sick raccoon at the post office in Durango, 222 W. Eighth St.

Clancy said when sick animals are captured, CPW tries its best to help them recover, but if they don’t start to recover after a certain amount of time, they are euthanized.


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