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Bay Shore family kept raccoons as pets, officials say

They drank milk from a bottle and even learned to use a litter box.

But two juvenile raccoons were nevertheless removed from a home in Bay Shore earlier this month by officers with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, because it is illegal to possess wildlife as a pet in New York — no matter how domesticated that wildlife might seem.

The department’s officers, Nicholas Nicholas and Kyle Bevis, had responded to a complaint that the raccoons were being kept as pets by a family in Bay Shore. An investigation led to the discovery of the raccoons, named Rack and Uni, in the basement of the home. A family member revealed that the two juveniles were being bottle-fed milk and had been trained to use a litter box. But Rack and Uni were seized and were transported to a local wildlife rehabilitator.

Following their rehabilitation, authorities plan to return the raccoons to the wild.

Two tickets were issued for unlawful possession of wildlife and for possession of wildlife as a pet, the DEC said.

Raccoons are among “the most widespread mammals” in the state, the DEC said, with populations in some areas of Long Island exceeding 100 per square mile. But, raccoons are carriers of rabies and canine distemper, as well as roundworm. Though distemper cannot be transmitted to humans, the DEC said it can be transmitted to pets that have not been immunized against it, while rabies can be transmitted to both humans and pets alike.

No one may possess a raccoon without a license and, the DEC said, licenses are not issued for pet wildlife. Hunting and trapping raccoons requires a license, though the law allows unlicensed homeowners and farmers to destroy raccoons that damage property — though the DEC said homeowners should first try eliminating food and shelter before killing the animal in question.

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