New York City has long had a fraught relationship with raccoons, particularly those foaming at the mouth. Instead of euthanizing hundreds of the garbage can-dwelling denizens and then testing them for rabies—as the city allegedly did from 2014 to 2016—the powers that be are now opting to vaccinate and release raccoons hanging out in several northern Manhattan parks.
The decision comes after four rabid Trash Pandas have been spotted around Inwood Hill Park just this year, the first time rabid raccoons have been spotted in the city since 2011, as officials announced earlier this year. Still, the vaccination is mostly a “preventative measure to ensure that our residents remain safe,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot in a press release from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Starting today through the next two weeks, officials will “humanely trap” raccoons in remote parts of several Manhattan parks, among them Isham Park, Fort Washington, Fort Tryon, Riverbank, and the northern part of Central Park. They’ll then vaccinate and tag the raccoons, and release them so that they can once again dig through garbage to their hearts’ content.
Wait, what about raccoons who have settled in areas where traps aren’t possible? The DOH is coming for them too, doling out an oral rabies vaccine (ORV) in these cases. As the agency notes, it’s pretty rare for an encounter with a rabid raccoon to happen (two other rabid raccoons have been reported thus far this year, one in the Bronx and one in Staten Island, as NY1 notes), but it’s still probably a good idea to steer clear of them. And don’t even think about trying to Instagram your encounter.