Concern Over Rabid Raccoon in Prospect Park

Rabid raccoons in major city parks are no longer just a Central Park phenomenon. At Prospect Park in Brooklyn, a dead raccoon found near the lake and Vanderbilt Street Playground in the southwestern corner of the park last Thursday has tested positive for rabies, the city health department says.

Brooklyn has a very long way to go to catch up with Central Park and environs, where more than 100 raccoons have tested positive for rabies this year and raccoons are now being vaccinated. The Prospect Park raccoon was only the second rabid one found in Brooklyn since 1992, the health department said. The other was found in Boerum Hill in February of this year.

But a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and Prospect Park-watcher, Anne-Katrin Titze, says that there may be some undercounting going on. As evidence, she submitted the above photograph, which she said was taken April 18 in Prospect Park.

The health department said that while seven Prospect Park raccoons have been tested for rabies this year, it had no record of a Prospect Park raccoon being tested for rabies on or shortly after April 18, even though dead raccoons are supposed to be routinely turned over to the health authorities for testing. Health officials note that animals that have decomposed past a certain point cannot be tested for rabies.

Ms. Titze said she was told by witnesses that the April raccoon carcass was heaved by parks workers into the back of a garbage van.

The issue is a serious one, Ms. Titze said, because according to health rules, dogs and other pets exposed to rabid animals who do not receive booster shots within a few days can face a six-month quarantine and, in some cases, mandatory euthanasia.

“Dead animals, untested and left to decompose in a city park where children and dogs might stumble upon them, are a serious health hazard,” Ms. Titze said in an email.

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