Four years into a raccoon invasion of Brooklyn, the borough’s first-known rabid varmint has been taken off the streets, leaving many residents of Boerum Hill still shaken by the unsettling infection.
NYPD officers caged the foaming beast — who had been observed acting erractically, a tell-tale sign — on Feb. 12 near State and Nevins streets, and handed it over to the Health Department, which has been tracking the raccoon incursion.
“Hopefully, it’s an isolated incident,” said Dr. Sally Slavinski, assistant director of the agency’s respected Zoonotic, Influenza and Vector Borne Disease Unit.
Slavinski said that the infected raccoon was first spotted by a local man who noticed the rodent menacing his dog from the other side of his backyard fence. After noting the odd behavior, the police arranged for the raccoon to be tested for rabies.
A portion of the wretched beast’s brain was put under a microscope and health officials realized the awful truth: The raccoon was rabid — the first of its kind in Brooklyn (that we know of).
Now, city officials — from the cops to the parks department to animal control — are on high alert for more infected varmints.
Locals were shocked that a rabid raccoon was stalking their streets.
“This is insane. I had no idea about this,” said Eric Fritch, who was walking his cocker spaniel, Delilah. “If one attacked the dog, we’d have to put her down — we’d be devastated!”
As a point of fact, of course, all dogs are required by law to be vaccinated against rabies, so Fritch’s scenario is unlikely. Still, others in the neighborhood were upset at city officials for not informing the public better.
“When was the Health Department going to let us know?” asked an outraged Rita Gillens. “It’s crazy. They couldn’t even send out a flier?”
It’s not the first time a rabid animal has been caught and put down in Brooklyn. A rabid bat was discovered in 2008 and similarly studied and put out of our misery.
Also, an ongoing outbreak of rabid raccoons in Central Park has become so severe that the city has instituted a “catch-vaccinate-release” program to prevent further infections, according to Dr. Slavinski.
Brooklyn’s non-infected raccoons have been a source of much controversy over the years.
In 2006, the city said that it would not typically wrangle healthy raccoons, even if they were causing a nuisance.
This non-confrontational policy forced one Dyker Heights man to take matters into his own hands in 2007 by setting up cunning raccoon traps.
But to at least one Boerum Hill resident, the latest raccoon encounter was not cause for concern, but rather a blast from the past.
“I’m from Virginia so I used to eat raccoon when I was a child,” said Frederick Sprauill. “But I’ve never seen a raccoon in New York City!”
— with Claire Glass