A Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ advisory issued Tuesday warned residents from the Acadiana area east through the Florida Parishes concerning an increase in reports of raccoons found with distemper.

The state agency’s statement was the virus is not harmful to people, but “advises that children and pets be kept away from sick raccoons and other wildlife. Even though the animal may appear calm, they can become aggressive if approached too closely.”

Symptoms include discharge from the nose and eyes, a rough coat, seizures, coughing, emaciated appearance and “unusual behavior such as disorientation or wandering aimlessly.” Distemper is most often fatal.

Recommendations were to feed pets indoors, remove other outdoor “attractants” from yards, and make sure garbage can lids are secure and cans cannot be toppled. If feeding pets outdoors, then bring feeding bowls inside after pets have fed.

“Do not feed raccoons. Providing artificial food sources may lead to unnaturally large concentrations of animals and increase the spread of disease,” the advisory stated.

Animals like raccoons, foxes, skunks, coyotes and unvaccinated dogs are susceptible to contracting the virus, which is spread when populations of these animals become too large or are concentrated in a small area, and is spread by direct contact with body fluids or droppings from an infected animal.

The warning to dog owners is to make sure your pet has a current vaccination.

The LDWF has more information on its website: wlf.louisiana.gov/wildlife/nuisance-wildlife.