Sick animals being reported throughout Bristol

Police are urging residents to be cautious around wild animals, especially skunks and raccoons

By Scott Pickering
Posted 3/25/21

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 …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Not a subscriber?


Start a Subscription

Sign up to start a subscription today! Click here to see your options.

Purchase a day pass

Purchase 24 hours of website access for $2. Click here to continue

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.


Sick animals being reported throughout Bristol

Police are urging residents to be cautious around wild animals, especially skunks and raccoons

Posted

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:

  • First of all, if you see an animal that appears sick or is behaving strangely, do not approach it;
  • Do not leave food outside for any animals, wild or domesticated;
  • Secure your trash, with proper lids, bungee cords or other means;
  • Be sure your pets are up to date on their vaccinations, especially distemper and rabies.

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.

2021 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.