In the month of March, Alcoa Animal Control euthanized 18 raccoons because they were being aggressive toward humans and were showing rabies-like symptoms.
"I was shocked and I started backing up going 'get out of here!' 'get out of here!' and he kept coming, he kept coming," said Jasper Tyler, who lives in Alcoa and reported one of the raccoons to animal control.
Tyler tells 10News he and his brother trapped the raccoon under a fishing net until animal control officers arrived, and did so because of its aggressive behavior and because it looked sick.
"He was wobbly and didn't have good balance and he got rolled up in this net and just stayed there," said Tyler.
Lt. Keith Fletcher with the Alcoa Police Department oversees the city's animal control. He says this year they're getting a lot of calls about sickly raccoons.
"The public thinks they have rabies, and not to say some of them may not, but what they actually have is distemper," said Fletcher.
Distemper is a virus raccoons and other animals are susceptible too, and its symptoms are similar to rabies. Distemper is not harmful to humans, but it is to pets.
"The raccoon is foaming at the mouth, or they're unable to move or are lying down or running in circles or moving very slow and that mimics rabies. It's hard to tell the difference but thus far we've not had any confirmed cases of rabies," said Fletcher.
Fletcher says no one knows why there is such an increase in sick raccoons in Alcoa. They typically euthanize about two raccoons per year - far fewer than the 18 they euthanized in March.
Fletcher says people should be aware of raccoons, and if they see one acting strangely to call animal control.
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