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Burnsville residents have reported seeing more than three dozen staggering, slumped-over or overly tame raccoons since July, prompting the city's animal control to recommend residents call authorities if they see such an animal.

"I want to stress that people need to stay away from them and call us immediately if they see any wildlife acting peculiar," said Chris Friggle, managing officer for Burnsville animal control.

Raccoons have also been reported to be having seizures at times, according to the news release.

The 39 sightings have been spread throughout Burnsville. For comparison, the city saw 17 reports of raccoons behaving strangely in 2022.

Such behavior is "not terribly uncommon" among raccoons, said John Erb, wildlife research biologist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

"A lot of the time, when it occurs in rural areas, people just don't see it," he said.

Two sick raccoons from Burnsville were recently taken to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Clinic. One of them tested positive for distemper and salmonellosis — salmonella food poisoning. The second animal's test showed it had salmonella poisoning.

The Minnesota DNR says that distemper is the "most important disease" causing raccoon mortality, but it doesn't affect humans or pets if they're properly immunized.

Erb said the symptoms described were "pretty classic" for distemper.

He recalled incidents of raccoons behaving oddly near his home in Grand Rapids, Minn., a few years ago and said the cause was found to be distemper.

Disease can spread quickly among raccoons in urban or suburban environments when they share a common food source, like a dumpster, he said.

Rabies is much more of a concern for raccoon populations — and humans — in the eastern U.S. than it is here, Erb said. When raccoons do get rabies in the Midwest, they typically contract the skunk strain of rabies.

Erb said raccoon harvests by hunters have been low for several years, which could account for larger populations, especially in rural areas.

Raccoons are abundant and resilient, he said, and their numbers are most often brought down by disease or encounters with cars.

According to the National Institutes of Health, a raccoon may acquire a salmonella infection by eating infected wildlife, poultry, fish or shellfish, or by consuming dirt, water, or plant material that is infected.

"The unique behavior of dunking their food in water before consuming it suggests that raccoons could play significant roles in dispersing salmonellae from contaminated water sources," according to the National Institutes of Health.

Michelle Carstensen, the wildlife health program supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said the salmonellosis may have been incidental in these raccoons' cases.

She recommended people vaccinate their dogs for distemper and dispose of raccoon carcasses properly, by burying them or bagging them and putting them in the trash.

In Burnsville, residents who spot a sick raccoon should call animal control at 952-894-3647.