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Authorities warn of sick raccoon outbreak in Niagara County

More than 90 reports of sick raccoons in Niagara County have been made so far this year and authorities are warning residents since dogs and cats that have not been vaccinated could be infected.

The primary area of the outbreak of distemper – a highly contagious viral disease – is in Lewiston and Porter, though confirmed sightings have happened across the county, the Niagara County Sheriff's Office said Thursday.

Pet owners should make sure their pets have been vaccinated. The disease cannot be passed to humans, according to authorities.

Raccoons could become infected with two types of distemper:

• Canine distemper in raccoons starts slowly, beginning with runny nose and watery eyes. "In its final stages, the raccoon may begin to wander aimlessly in a circle, disoriented and unaware of its surroundings. The animal may exhibit other bizarre behavior as a result of brain damage," the Sheriff's Office said.

• Feline distemper in raccoons starts suddenly with a high fever, then vomiting and diarrhea. "The course of the disease is quick, usually a week, with nearly 100 percent mortality," according to the Sheriff's Office. Insects may play a role in the spread of the disease.

There have been no reported cases in Niagara Falls, authorities said.

Sightings of "distempered" raccoons in Niagara County between Jan. 11 and March 13. (Map courtesy Niagara County Sheriff's Office)

Authorities recommend anyone who sees a raccoon acting suspiciously to stay away and call a nuisance wildlife control agent. The county provided the following list of agents:


Jeffrey A. Cummings – 716-662-4000

Robert M. Johnston – 585-735-5334


David A. Sherriff – 716-628-7123

Nia Swensson – 716-754-8621


James R. Usiak – 716-625-8093

Robert S. McCollum – 716-308-8336


Walter C. Barker – 585-478-3214

Niagara Falls

Jason W. Lucore – 716-940-4229

Joseph M. Malloy – 716-517-1639

North Tonawanda

Michael A. Harbridge – 716-471-5715

David G. Muir – 716-695-5552


Nicholas J. Fleckenstein – 716-628-1879

Aaron Swanson – 716-465-1089


Alan Besant – 716-731-3727


Stanley M. Culverwell – 716-622-6198


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