Illness impacting wild animals in Meridian Township

The virus is not harmful to humans but it can be to pets.
The Meridian Township Police Department are working with biologists from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 6:33 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Something is causing strange and even possibly aggressive behavior in raccoons and coyotes here in Mid-Michigan. Wildlife experts think it may be a virus that’s not dangerous to people but it could be to your pets.

The Meridian Township Police Department are in contact with biologists from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to determine if further investigation needs to be done in the area. That’s after the department has had a number of sick raccoons in the area.

Julie Melotti, Wildlife Pathologist with the Michigan DNR, said these reports are likely showing signs of Canine Distemper virus.

“They noted that they have had to euthanize a larger than normal number of raccoons this year.” said Melotti. “Primarily we see it in raccoons, we will also see it in gray foxes, sometimes skunks and sometimes coyotes.”

Canine Distemper virus is a highly contagious disease that infects certain mammals. It is found annually in Michigan and can spread between mammals. Symptoms can include wandering in the daylight, lethargy, vomiting, fluid from the mouth and in some cases seizures.

The virus is not harmful to humans but it can be to pets. Melotti said keeping your pets up to date on vaccinations is the best way to protect them from it. It is also never a good idea to let your pet interact with wild animals, sick or not.

So far, Meridian Township police have only had confirmed reports of sick raccoons. However, one concerned resident called about a coyote.

Margaret Graybill lives in near the Wardcliff neighborhood of Meridian Township. Every morning she visits her neighbor, but on Friday, she saw something unsettling.

“I looked out the sliding glass doors and saw the coyote laying on the patio maybe about eight feet from the house,” said Graybill. “She was frothing at the mouth and having seizures and it was terrible. She was in great distress.”

The police department responded to the call but upon arrival there was nothing they could do. The female coyote was euthanized. The responding officer was unsure if the coyote was sick or had been injured.

Graybill wants others in her neighborhood to be on the lookout so they can protect their pets.

“I hate to think that one of the kids in this area saw that,” Graybill said. “That is, to me, what nightmares are made of.”

Melotti discourages people from approaching sick animals. However, the DNR does ask that people report them online.

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