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December 8, 2010 / Brooklyn news / Park Slope / Meadows of Shame

Raccoon tests positive — but park critics are rabid

The Brooklyn Paper
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A Prospect Park raccoon has tested positive for rabies — and park advocates are slamming city and park officials for being part of the problem.

On Dec. 2, the raccoon was discovered to be carrying the viral disease, which causes death in humans if left untreated. But city officials didn’t reveal the information to the public — and haven’t even been testing the dozens of animals that have turned up dead in the park during a spate of bizarre critter deaths.

Instead, animal corpses have been dumped with the trash rather than dispatched to the Department of Health for proper testing.

“People need to know,” said Anne-Katrin Titze, a state-certified wildlife rehabilitator. “There is already an outbreak of raccoon rabies in Central Park — and it’s clearly moving.”

In Central Park, more than 120 raccoons have tested positive for rabies, city data reveal. To combat rabies there, the city began a widely publicized raccoon vaccination program.

“But the city hasn’t publicized the Brooklyn issue, and people don’t know,” Titze said.

The Health Department did not issue a press release on the case. At press time, the agency did not say how many dead animals found in Prospect Park it has tested for rabies.

Those familiar with the case said the raccoon was discovered near the just-renovated Vanderbilt Playground in the southwest section of the park.

Park officials insisted staff is following the correct protocol.

“It is standard that if a dead animal is in the park and not severely decomposed, the rangers are supposed to take them to the Health Department,” said Eugene Patron, a spokesman for the Prospect Park Alliance.

But that’s not enough, said park advocates, who have long complained of slow clean-ups and large piles of garbage after summer weekends.

“The problem with the park is also a lack of cleanup. When there’s more food, there is more offspring — and more raccoons means more of a potential to get infected,” said Ed Bahlman.

Health officials vowed to conduct enhanced rabies surveillance in Prospect and Fort Greene parks, the latter where a rabid raccoon was discovered in February, the first raccoon with rabies found in Brooklyn since the disease arrived in the city in 1992.

“These results will help determine if the two rabid raccoon cases found in these parks are isolated incidents or may represent the larger transmission of raccoon rabies in Brooklyn,” an agency spokeswoman said.

People and unvaccinated animals can acquire rabies, typically from a bite by an infected animal, leading to a severe brain disease that causes death unless swift medical treatment is administered. There hasn’t been a human case of rabies reported in the city since 1953.

To report sick, disoriented or unusually friendly or aggressive raccoons to 311. If an animal has attacked, or may attack, call 911. To report a dead raccoon, call Prospect Park supervisor’s office at (718) 965-6610.

Updated 10:54 am, December 8, 2010
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Reasonable discourse

K. from ArKady says:
cute yes, but she could have herpes.
Dec. 8, 2010, Noon
jay from pslope says:
I had a raccoon in my garbage a couple of weeks ago, when it saw me it did not run. This is quite frequently a sign that a raccoon may be infected with rabies.
When I called 311 they refused to send anyone out to deal with it unless I could tell them for sure that the raccoon had rabies. The only way you can do that it to actually test the animal.
So I then asked if I could kill it myself, and I was advised not to do that. In any event, is it just me or does this remind anyone of a zombie movie? Rage virus anyone? Just sayin...
Dec. 8, 2010, 9:09 pm
Arlene from Mason says:
hey Jay, not to worry, rabid animals are too sick to seek out food - when you see urban raccoons in trash and they don't take evasive action its only a sign they have become habituated to people from living in such close proximity...
Dec. 9, 2010, 5:59 am
Michele from Kensington says:
Prospect Park Administrators are adding to an almost incredible record of failure to take action to protect the park and its visitors. Mr. Balhman is correct: the garbage which is spread all over the park attracts rodents as well as raccoons. These can spread rabies. The park needs to act decisively to investigate and stop the spread of rabies in Prospect Park; but that will not be enough. If they don't act to eliminate the trash, the possibility of serious injury will persist. I blame the park Administrator and the Park Alliance. This is where change must begin -- with a change of administration! And quick!
Dec. 9, 2010, 8:01 am
Harrison from Windsor Terrace says:
Tupper Thomas could not be more out of touch. Under her reign, the park has ignored serious health concerns year after year. The trees are decaying at a rapid rate and have been turned into homes for an abundance of raccoons.
Mr. Patron, you can stop making excuses for what regular visitors to Prospect Park know, dead raccoons, rats, squirrels, turtles, birds are piling up. It is NOT survival of the fittest when someone as unfit as Tupper Thomas is allowed to remain in charge.
The overflowing population of raccoons that breed in Prospect Park shows the ignorance of the Prospect Park Alliance and their so-called "experts" on Wildlife Management.
Dec. 9, 2010, 10:20 am
Walker from Park Slope says:
Mr. Patron, I am sure will be happy to see Tupper Thomas go.
He has been forced to give statements to the press that defies common sense.
He is covering up once again for the inability to perform the most basic duties. This time, being unable to remove and report dead animals in an efficient and safety conscious way.
Dec. 9, 2010, 10:41 am

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