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Jul 21 2021


By The Town of Kiawah Island for The Island Connection 

The Town of Kiawah Island has received notice of several cases of lethargic raccoons around the island in the past month. This is likely a result of a canine distemper outbreak. 

Canine distemper outbreaks are nature’s way of preventing raccoon populations from getting too high. 

The disease is always present within raccoon populations, but transmission rates increase as the population increases, leading to significant outbreaks. Roughly half of raccoons that contract distemper die; the rest recover and become carriers of the disease. There is no way to prevent it on a large scale, and the outbreaks are useful at keeping raccoons from becoming overabundant. Biologists have historically recorded significant distemper outbreaks on the island every couple of years. Canine distemper can affect any canine, including foxes, coyotes, and dogs. This viral disease is not contagious to humans, and dogs are vaccinated against it. 

Town biologists ask residents to report any sighting of raccoons with abnormal behavior such as lethargy, nose/eye crustation, and poor body condition by phone at 843-768-9166 or email

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