Have you seen someone with a new, furry little bandit in their home?
Health officials in Niagara Falls, N.Y., say they’ve been working hard to track down nine baby raccoons that were handed out near a 7-Eleven convenience store earlier last week, amid concerns about the spread of rabies in the area.
Seven of the 7-Eleven scamps have already been recovered, but the Niagara County Department of Health was still looking for two others as of Wednesday, it said in a statement.
No details have been released about the person who passed out the baby raccoons on May 28, other than it was a Niagara resident.
“Possession of raccoons is illegal except by a licensed rehabilitator and presents a potential rabies hazard to anyone in direct contact with the animal,” the department said.
The rabies virus is fatal for humans unless it’s treated quickly. The virus typically spreads from wild animals that come into contact with pets or humans.
“Animal rabies continues to be a serious public health concern in Niagara County,” the health department said in a statement.
Health officials say unvaccinated wild animals — even cute ones — pose a risk of exposure for dogs, cats and people.
It’s unclear whether the baby raccoons in question were rabid, but the Niagara County Department of Health says people shouldn’t take chances.
They say the best way to avoid rabies is to make sure your pets are up to date on their vaccinations. Health officials also say humans should not feed, touch or adopt wild animals or stray dogs or cats.
It’s not the first time that Niagara health officials have had to deal with someone trying to adopt a baby raccoon.
Health officials euthanized a litter of 12 raccoons in 2017 after a man brought one of the babies into a bar. Officials said at the time that they had to put the babies down due to rabies concerns after a dead raccoon was found among the dozen live ones.
“If the raccoons were not touched, they would not have had to be euthanized and tested,” Paul Dicky, an official with the Niagara County Department of Health, told WIVB.
It’s unclear what will happen to the 7-Eleven raccoons.