Pierce County officials are warning people after raccoons exhibiting signs of distemper have been captured in Point Defiance Park recently and two cases have been confirmed to have been infected with canine distemper virus.
Park spokeswoman Nancy Johnson said they are experiencing an overpopulation of raccoons, due in large part to illegal feeding of wildlife. Feeding wildlife is illegal and could result in a fine.
Johnson said this year there are 4-6 times as many raccoons in the park.
The virus is transmitted primarily through the urine and feces of an infected animal, and respiratory secretions. It can also be transmitted via shoes or clothing that come into contact with the virus.
Animals infected with the virus may exhibit a variety of symptoms including, respiratory secretions causing discharge from the eyes and nose, blindness, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, seizures, and hardening of the nose and foot pad.
Experts say that once an infected animal exhibits visible symptoms they are so debilitated and advanced in the disease, that euthanasia is the humane thing to do for them.
The public is asked to report animals exhibiting symptoms of canine distemper in high traffic areas in Tacoma Parks, to Metro Parks by calling 253-202-5967.
Outside of Metro Parks Tacoma property resources to respond to infected animals outside of park property can be found on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's website
Domestic cats do not appear to be susceptible to this virus, officials say.
They say as a precautionary measure to prevent possible spread of the virus to puppies, or dogs and ferrets without current vaccinations, pet owners may wish to disinfect the soles of shoes after visiting areas where outbreak is known to have occurred.
"We don't think there's grounds for great public alarm, but people with dogs and puppies should be aware they could be at risk," Johnson said.