Rabies concerns increase as raccoon population grows in Cuyahoga, Summit counties

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AKRON, Ohio – The population of raccoons in the urban and suburban areas of Cuyahoga and Summit Counties seem to be increasing and along with that comes growing concerns about the diseases the animals can transmit.

Nuisance trappers across Summit County say they are very busy keeping up with calls to remove raccoons from homes. One trapper told FOX 8 News he is working as much as 14 hours a day and going to as many as 12 different calls just to eliminate troublesome raccoons.

The Ohio Department of Wildlife does keep estimates of the raccoon population statewide based on road kill observations and reports from hunters.  However, the department also admits that it does not have enough data to draw population conclusions on a county level.

The department believes raccoons have become more tolerant of human beings as construction continues to eliminate some of their natural habitat and forces them to live under porches, under homes, in attics and in sheds.

“With the housing being built like it is, it’s actually — there’s no place for them to live anymore. The woods are gone no more. They went ahead and made themself adaptable. They use the sewers for their expressway — the storm sewers — so you see them in and out of Akron all the time,” said Randy Huckabone of Clinton, who owns J.H.’s Nusiance Trapping and Wildlife Control.

Huckabone said he has removed as many as 96 raccoons from the same location over a period of three months. Adding, that in the last several weeks he was called back to the same location because the animals had returned.

He said the animals will climb down chimneys without caps and into homes. They will literally scale outside walls and get into attics through soffets where they can do a tremendous amount of damage.

Huckabone also recommends removing bird feeders

“They just eat anything they see, they can come up on the front porch and beg. I mean people tell me they come up to my sliding door and beg and they want food and will throw them something or if you are feeding the cats and dogs outside they are in in it,” he said.

The Ohio Department of Health cautions people to stay away from raccoons which notoriously transmit diseases including rabies.  The state has had an oral rabies vaccination program which is considered extremely successful, dropping vaccinated bait into areas where raccoons are known to live.

So far, in 2019, there have been three cases of raccoon-related rabies reported in Tuscarawas and Ashtabula counties.

The department reminds homeowners if a raccoon visits your yard, just allow the animal to move on.

Click here for more on rabies and animal bites.

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