Bristol Police are warning residents to take precautions around wild animals, as there has been a noticeable uptick in sick animals reported throughout town, especially sick skunks and …
Bristol Police are warning residents to take precautions around wild animals, as there has been a noticeable uptick in sick animals reported throughout town, especially sick skunks and raccoons.
Capt. Brian Burke said police received 12 calls about wild animals in the month of February; in the first three weeks of March they had already received 22. A month ago, those calls were mostly originating from the west side of town. Now they are coming from all over Bristol.
Animal Control Officer Debbie DaSilva said the most common illnesses are rabies and distemper, both of which are typically fatal for the animals, but they’re also bad news for humans and their pets. She and Capt. Burke strongly encourage people to follow a few safety guidelines:
Judgment on whether an animal is “acting strangely” can be very subjective. Both officers said it is not unusual for raccoons or skunks to be active or visible during the daytime. “Despite what people think, the animals do come out during the day, so that is normal,” Officer DaSilva said.
Not-normal behaviors and symptoms include walking in circles, stumbling or appearing disoriented, eyes that are crusted closed or have discharge, or — and this is the most troubling — animals that try to approach people as if they are pets. These wild animals would not normally approach humans in either a threatening or an affectionate manner. Police have seen them doing both in the past month.
“We can’t stress enough, don’t approach the animals if they’re showing any signs of being sick, or if they are approaching you,” Capt. Burke said.
When residents see a wild animal exhibiting these behaviors, they are encouraged to call Animal Control at 401-253-4834, Bristol Police at 401-253-6900, or the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) at 401-222-4700. If a Bristol officer is dispatched to investigate an animal that appears sick, the officer will make a determination on whether the animal is fine and can be left alone, whether to call DEM to the scene, or whether to euthanize the animal immediately.
“The decision to euthanize is always the last resort,” Capt. Burke said. When they do, Bristol officers use special small-caliber rifles, after first clearing the area and making sure no one is in the immediate vicinity.
“We only euthanize in a situation where we feel this could be a public risk, or if the animal is suffering,” Officer DaSilva said.
The Friends of the Bristol Animal Shelter are holding a rabies vaccination clinic next month. Dog and cat owners can get their pets vaccinated from 9 to 12 p.m. on Sunday, April 25, at the Bristol Animal Shelter. The cost is $10 per shot.