The City is working with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Cornell University to vaccinate raccoons in several areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island from September 29 to the middle of October, 2020. 

Vaccination is being done using an oral rabies vaccine bait, sometimes called ORV.  The baits are small, brown colored and smell like fish.  They are the size of a small ketchup packet.  Inside is a pink, liquid vaccine. Raccoons are attracted to the odor, and when raccoons chew the bait, they can become immunized which protects them against infection with rabies.

Baits will be distributed using bait stations or hand tossing, in wooded areas in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. In Staten Island and the Gateway National Recreation Area in Brooklyn and Queens, a low-flying helicopter will be used.

Vaccinating raccoons against rabies will protect them from becoming infected with rabies and prevent people and pets from being bitten by a rabid raccoon.

The bait itself does not harm people, but in extremely rare instances, exposure to the liquid can cause a rash. In the unlikely event someone comes in contact with the liquid, they should wash hands with warm, soapy water, talk to their doctor, and notify the Poison Control Center at 1 (800) 222-1222.

The bait is not harmful to pets and cannot cause rabies, but it can cause vomiting if several baits are consumed. If pets find the bait, do not try to take it away from them to avoid being bitten and exposed to the vaccine. 

Learn more about rabies.

Raccoons can live and make their homes in urban areas because of the amount of food that is available. Raccoons around homes in New York City is not unusual. Raccoons usually live in dens in hollow trees, but in urban areas they can also live in garages, abandoned buildings, rock piles, fireplace chimneys, hollow walls, attics, or beneath sewer drains. If a raccoon is found living around your home, it is recommended that you consult a licensed wildlife trapper and not attempt to trap a raccoon yourself.

Raccoons are attracted to any home where food is available. You can take steps to keep raccoons and other wildlife from making a home around where  you live by following these guidelines:

  • Do not feed pets outside
  • Purchase raccoon-proof garbage cans or put a weight on the lids of other garbage cans
  • Do not leave bags of garbage on the ground
  • Eliminate conditions on property that can be used as dens

Some raccoons have tested positive for canine distemper virus in:

  • Central Park
  • Pelham Bay Park
  • Alley Pond Park
  • Prospect Park

Although the virus cannot be transmitted to humans, it may be transmitted to dogs. The symptoms of canine distemper virus can include: 

  • Confused behavior
  • Spasms
  • Trouble breathing
  • Discharge from the nose and eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Aggression

Dog owners should make sure their dogs have up-to-date distemper and rabies vaccinations. You and your pets should always keep a safe distance from wildlife, and never approach a wild animal.

In the event that a person is bitten:

  • Wash the wound with soap and water immediately.
  • Call a doctor or go to an emergency room for testing.

In the event that a pet comes in contact with a sick raccoon, they should receive treatment from a veterinarian immediately.

Call 311 for assistance by phone.

You can get a fact sheet called "Raccoons in New York City: What You Need to Know." 

This fact sheet explains how you can humanely remove raccoons from your property, discourage them from returning, and what to do if you are bitten or scratched by a raccoon.


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