PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) - There's a new warning for pet owners in Pasco County. There has been an increase in raccoons carrying a deadly sickness.
The calls are coming in around the clock as these five fingered critters infected with distemper are getting too close for comfort.
William Beadling says raccoons are rampant in his neck of the woods.
"You'll see a whole family of them. You'll see from big to little guys," he said.
Just this week, Pasco Animal Services has responded to more than eight calls for sick or injured raccoons.
It's a job that has Rabies Control Officer Martin O'Keeffe working around the clock.
"This month alone we've responded to 43 sick or injured raccoon calls within the county. Versus in 2016, we responded to 41, uh, 46 rather for the entire year," said O'Keeffe.
That's why his mobile van is equipped with the right tools when residents call about raccoons acting erratically.
"They're stumbling, they're bumbling. They're falling over. They're spinning in circles. They're snapping their jaws," he said, describing their behavior.
While some have rabies, others have distemper. It's a deadly virus your dog can catch even after a sick raccoon leaves your yard.
"Distemper, it can be through urine, it can be through fecal matter, it can be discharged through the air, through nasal discharge," said O'Keeffe.
How do you make your backyard less appealing to raccoons?
"The easiest way is not to leave food sources unattended for them. Secure your trash can lids. Take your cans down to the curb only [on] garbage night."
Something Beadling says he does at his home.
"Yeah, 'cause the raccoons like to eat cat food or dog food."
If you live in Pasco County and have questions about raccoons or need to report one, you can find there website here.