By Sophie Oriani
A flurry of concerned emails flew, as half a dozen Hyattsville residents took to online listservs to warn neighbors of possibly rabid raccoon sightings. Multiple residents stated they had been attacked by a raccoon during the day, and one even reported that her husband was chased down the street. No one reported a bite or scratch that broke the skin.
While it is a common belief that a raccoon out in the daytime is probably rabid, according to the Humane Society of the United States of America, “it isn’t uncommon for a healthy raccoon to be active in the daytime.”
However, the Humane Society also adds that “it’s highly unusual for a raccoon to be aggressive toward a person.” While some raccoons appear aggressive because they are guarding young, other possible causes of aggressive behavior include not only rabies, but also canine distemper or feline parvovirus. According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, raccoons are responsible for 60% of rabies cases in Maryland.
The reports of aggressive raccoons spanned the city in late September and early October, with reports from Wards 1, 2, and 4, over the course of several weeks. It is not clear whether the attacks stemmed from one raccoon or several. While a rabid raccoon usually dies within three days of becoming infectious, canine distemper, which does not affect humans, can take weeks to run its course.
A dead raccoon was reported near the 38th Ave neighborhood park on Oct. 9, and no attacks have been reported since.