Wildlife Diseases

Problem Animals & Wildlife Services, LCC asks that you do not attempt to handle or feed any wildlife in your home or on your property. Wild animals can often be the carriers of transmissible diseases to human beings that cause serious illness and in some cases, death. Of course, not every animal is diseased. For safety concerns it is best that you and your family leave the handling of wild animals, especially nuisance animals, to trained professionals such as a licensed Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator, Animal Control Officer, agent of the state Department of Environmental Protection, etc.

The following is a list of the most prominent wildlife diseases that can pose a potential risk to anyone who handles, comes into contact with or works with wild animals. The information found below was taken from the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management (ICWDM) “Wildlife Diseases” page. Additional information can be found on the ICWDM website or the Center for Disease Control website:

Rabies (rhabdovirus) – Virus. Most commonly acquired by direct exposure (animal bite) from infected raccoons, stripped skunks, foxes, bats, and other mammals. Can only be contracted by exposure to saliva, brain tissue or spinal fluids.

Signs and Symptoms: Paralysis, Convulsions, Coma. May lead to death if left untreated.

Hantavirus (hantavirus) – Virus. Commonly acquired by direct exposure (animal bite) from mice and other rodents.

Signs and Symptoms: Fever, Headaches, Muscle Aches, Nausea, Vomiting, Back Pain, Respirator symptoms.

Leptospirosis (leptospira) – Bacteria. Acquired by incidental ingestion from areas contaminated with infected animal urine (Example – Processing wild game meat in a dirty, unclean area where live animals regularly travel or visit). Most common in rodents, rabbits, opossums, racoons, skunks, foxes & deer.

Signs and Symptoms: Fever, Jaundice, Neurological Symptoms, Pain in Abdomen, Joints & Muscles, Nausea. Potentially fatal.

Histoplasmosis (histoplasma capsulatum) –Fungus. Acquired from the inhalation of spores in areas enriched by fecal matter, most commonly under bird and bat roosts.

Signs and Symptoms: Mild fever and Influenza-like symptoms, Pneumonia, Hepatitis, Endocarditis. Potentially fatal.

Raccoon Roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis) – Parasite. Transmitted by ingesting infected eggs found in the feces of raccoons. Can also be absorbed through the skin. This typically occurs accidentally in people who clean up raccoon scat without taking proper precautions (Gloves, ventilator mask, etc.). Though it is a rare infection, children are also commonly the carriers of this parasite amongst those who do contract the disease.

Signs and Symptoms: Nausea, Fatigue, Liver Enlargement, Loss of Coordination, Lack of Attention, Loss of Muscle Control, Blindness, and Coma.

Tularemia (Francisella tularensis) -Bacteria. Typically transmitted by ticks and/or biting insects that come off rodents, rabbits, birds, and various wildlife including raccoons & skunks. Can also be transmitted by insects that come off hoofed animals.

Signs and Symptoms: Mild to severe illness including Meningitis, Pneumonia, Ulcers at inoculation site, Swollen lymph nodes. Potentially fatal.

Mange – Skin disease caused by parasitic mites. There are two types of Mange – Demodectic and Sarcoptic (Sarcoptes scabiei canis). Sarcoptic mange is the most common form of mange and is seen in foxes, coyotes and domestic dogs. It is transferable to humans and is treatable.

Distemper – Virus. Highly contagious disease acquired via inhalation. Prevalent primarily in domestic animals but can be found in wild animals such as raccoons or those in the Mustelid family. Though this disease is not a threat to humans, it can be a concern to anyone who has a dog.

Signs and Symptoms (In Dogs) – High Fever, Discharge from Eyes and Nose, Vomiting and Diarrhea, Hardening of the Footpads and Nose, Seizures, Paralysis.


There are also additional various Tick-borne, Bird-borne and Rodent-borne illnesses that can be transmitted to human beings who handle or come in to contact with wildlife if precautions are not taken to limit the potential of infection. Though rare, cases of each are reported in the United States each year.

Additional Tick-borne illnesses may include Lyme Disease (Prevalent in Connecticut), Colorado Tick Fever and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Also known as “Tick-Borne Typhus”).

Additional Rodent-borne illnesses may include Rat-Bite Fever, Salmonellosis, Rickettsialpox.

Additional Bird-borne illnesses may include Ornithosis (Chlamydia psittaci, psittacosis), Salmonellosis.