Raccoon Bites Woman in Central Park

by - July 8, 2010 at 11:24 am -

Central Park raccoon, by D. Bruce Yolton.

Maybe the rabid raccoon epidemic isn’t over after all. About a month ago, a woman was sitting near Bethesda Fountain in Central Park when a raccoon came up behind her and bit her on the ankle, drawing blood, she told New York magazine. The raccoon ambled off, so it’s unclear whether it was rabid. Not all raccoons who walk around in the daytime and bite people are rabid, though increased aggressiveness is a possible sign of rabies. Two other people were exposed to rabies earlier this year, one of whom stuck her fingers in a raccoon’s mouth to try to give it water. Hundreds of raccoons have been vaccinated since january as health officials have attempted to stem a rabies epidemic that broke out in the park late lastyear. Fewer sick raccoons have been found in recent weeks, leading health officials to believe the problem was getting better.

The woman who was bitten about a month ago got four full rounds of rabies shots, and a story:

“So I’m sitting on a bench right on the 72nd Street Transverse, near the Mall and Bethesda Fountain. I was sitting there maybe 30 minutes … and suddenly I felt something around my feet, and a sharp pang in my left ankle. I think I felt the presence of something first, because I remember thinking maybe it was a leaf or something, but then I felt the bite. My first thought was: Someone’s dog. I looked down at my ankle and it was dripping blood.”

Read the rest at New York mag’s Daily Intel. We asked the NYC health department to respond, and to let us know if this means the rabies epidemic hasn’t gotten better. Here’s what they sent us:

The Health Department is aware of the incident. Wildlife is a feature of every habitat, including New York City. Raccoons, skunks, bats, stray dogs and cats can carry rabies. The Health Department reminds people to respect and enjoy wild animals from a distance and avoid direct interaction. New Yorkers should report suspicious acting animals to 311 and dangerous animals to 911.

If you need more information about wild animals in city environments, you should contact the State Department of Environmental Conservation. You can reach them at 518-402-8000.

To protect yourself against rabies:

Do not touch or feed wild animals, or stray dogs or cats.

Keep garbage in tightly sealed containers.

Stay away from any animal that is behaving aggressively

Stay away from any wild animal that appears ill or acts unusually friendly. Call 311 or your local police precinct to report the animal.

Animals that have attacked, or seem likely to attack, should be reported to 911.

To protect your pet against rabies:

Make sure your dog or cat is up-to-date on rabies vaccinations.

Keep your dog leashed while outdoors unless at a specified off-leash area or park

Do not leave your pets outdoors unattended.

Do not try to separate animals that are fighting.

If your pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid, contact your veterinarian, and report the incident to 311.

Feed pets indoors.

If you are bitten or scratched by an animal:

Immediately wash the wound with lots of soap and water.

Seek medical care from your health care provider.

If the animal is not owned, and can be captured, call 311.

If the animal is a pet, get the owner’s name, address and telephone number so that the Health Department can monitor the animal.

To report a bite, call the Animal Bite Unit (212-676-2483) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the week. At night or on weekends, call 212-POISONS (764-7667). You can also file a report online at www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/vet/vetegp.shtml.

For information about medical follow-up, call 311 or your medical provider.

(Central Park raccoon photo by D. Bruce Yolton.)

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Ellie Seepes says...

    This evening, right near the Western end of the Gothic Bridge (near the Reservoir), I saw a ground hog! My dog spotted it and I successfuly pulled her away. The ground hog just continued its work of trying to get under a wire fence and in to a thicket.

  2. Out walking the dog says...

    How cool. I have known Central Park has groundhogs, but have not been lucky enough to see one. As for the recent raccoon bite, the numbers indicate clearly that the rabies epidemic is winding down. But since neither diseases nor wild animals follow human schedules, there may be a couple of rabid stragglers remaining. So keep your pets on leash and don’t feed the animals.