By Chris Collins
A raccoon that was acting abnormally Saturday afternoon in a northwest Baker City neighborhood was suffering from canine distemper, said Brian Ratliff, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife district biologist.
A community resident reported at 2:50 p.m. Saturday that cars were dodging the animal as it walked down the road at 17th and Baker streets, Ratliff said.
When he found it, the animal had a heavy nasal discharge, was salivating and showing signs of neurological problems.
"Pretty much all the symptoms that you would expect to see with canine distemper orrabies," he said.
A sick coyote that was shot by a sheriff's deputy on Kirkway Drive in September was found to be suffering from both rabies and canine distemper.
The raccoon tested negative for rabies, Ratliff said.
He said his office is called to respond to reports of problem raccoons in the city three or four times a year. Usually callers want the animals removed from their neighborhoods because they are getting into their garbage, eating the cat's food and making a general nuisance of themselves.
Ratliff alerted the dispatch center of the finding of canine distemper in the raccoon and also spoke with Baker City veterinarians.
Canine distemper is not common in Baker County.
"One of the vets said he had not seen it in domestic dogs in 10 years," Ratliff said. "With that said, it still exists."
Canine distemper cannot be transmitted to people or to domestic cats. They have feline distemper to contend with, Ratliff said, although lions and other large cats can contract canine distemper as well.
He urged pet owners to ensure their dogs and cats are protected from the virus, which is spread through close contact with an infected animal.
Rabies vaccinations also should be administered as required.
Ratliff encouraged community residents to call his office at 5451-523-5832 to report any abnormal animal activity or to call dispatch at 541-523-6415. If it is an emergency situation, call 911.
"It's always nice to have lots of eyes out there as compared to just a few," Ratliff said.
More information about vaccination schedules for rabies and distemper is available from Baker City veterinarians.