State and County Officials Discuss Die-off of Raccoon Population in Coastal Georgia

For the past two months, there have been multiple reports of sick or dying raccoons in The Landings. Landings Association staff recently met with representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR), and Chatham County Animal Services to understand better the authority and proper procedures as it relates to sick and dying raccoons.

State and County officials say the current raccoon problem is not limited to Skidaway Island and Chatham County but has been witnessed along the Georgia coast as well as in other states through the summer and fall of 2018. While there have been some reported cases of rabies, there has been a large uptick in distemper in the raccoon population. Distemper is a viral disease that causes multiple adverse symptoms that are similar to rabies such as fever, coughing, tremors and seizures. Distemper is cited as the primary cause when a large die-off of raccoons occurs. At this time, these agencies cannot confirm that the sole reason for the recent raccoon die-off is distemper, and it is recommended that residents always treat a sick raccoon as a potentially rabid animal.

The Landings Association and Chatham County Animal Services provide some services regarding dead/dying raccoons. If you observe a dead or dying raccoon, please call Landings Security (598-1982) and an officer will respond to assess the situation. If the raccoon is dead, a staff member or one of our contractors will remove the animal during normal business hours (Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). If the animal is still alive, Security will respond accordingly and contact Chatham County Animal Services. Chatham County Animal Services employs two-to-three animal services officers to circulate the entire County during business hours. Any after-hours calls are handled by an on-call Chatham County employee who primarily will respond only to issues related to direct human contact.

GADNR has domain over wildlife in the State of Georgia and does not have a program in place for dealing with sick or diseased animals. The Association has received a depredation permit from GADNR to remove any identified sick or dead raccoons. This work is conducted through a contract with the USDA Wildlife Biologist. When our USDA Wildlife Biologist is onsite, he will arrive and dispatch the animal. Please understand that if you report a raccoon issue during Chatham County’s non-working hours, there likely will be a delay in response until the animal can be trapped or removed by the County, Association staff, or our USDA Wildlife Biologist. It is important to note that at the time of this article, our USDA Wildlife Biologist currently is on furlough due to the government shutdown.

 In the meantime, Chatham County Animal Services maintains that the best way to prevent distemper in your pets is to make sure they are vaccinated against the virus. The distemper vaccine is not mandated by law like the rabies vaccine is, because the distemper virus cannot spread to humans. Vaccination is the best prevention to keep your pet safe. The Chatham County Animal Ordinance provides information on the County’s rabies requirements for protecting your pets.

The Landings Association will continue to monitor the raccoon situation and provide more information as it becomes available.