Response and Collection Management During a Rabies Outbreak in Free-Ranging Raccoons (Procyon lotor elucus) at Zoo Miami
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2019
Marisa Bezjian1, DVM; Frank Ridgley2, DVM; Gabriella Flacke1, MVSc, DVM, PhD; James G. Johnson, III1, DVM, MS, CertAqV, DACZM; Gwen Myers1, DVM
1Animal Health Department, Zoo Miami, Miami, FL, USA; 2Conservation and Research Department, Zoo Miami, Miami, FL, USA


In May 2018, a Florida raccoon (Procyon lotor elucus), exhibiting significant aggressive neurologic behavior, was found on zoo grounds. It was euthanized and submitted to the Bureau of Public Health Laboratory (Miami, FL). It was confirmed rabies positive. Subsequently, Zoo Miami veterinarians reviewed the rabies vaccination status of all mammals in the collection and administered a booster vaccination to any animal that had not received a vaccination within the past year (n=250). After a second positive wildlife case was identified in June 2018, local Department of Health officials began collaborating with the Florida Department of Health, State Public Health Veterinarian, and Zoo Miami staff. Additional rabies cases were confirmed outside zoo grounds: two domestic cats (Felis catus) and a North American river otter (Lontra canadensis). Health officials enlisted the Conservation and Research Department at Zoo Miami to test the successful delivery of two oral rabies vaccine (ORV) formulations, and to monitor wildlife preference for designing an oral rabies vaccine program.1 In addition, traps were maintained on zoo grounds by rabies vaccinated Animal Science staff. All unhealthy raccoons were euthanized. Healthy raccoons were heavily sedated for rabies vaccination, distemper vaccination, ivermectin treatment, and right ear notching, and released on zoo grounds.2 From May 2018 to May 2019, we identified 25 suspect cases with eight confirmed rabies-positive raccoons. In this presentation, we describe this wildlife disease outbreak and management response, which was a One Health partnership among Zoo Miami personnel, Miami public health officials, and the Florida Department of Health.


The authors thank the keepers and staff at Zoo Miami for their assistance with the management of our captive collection and surrounding wildlife. We also thank the Administration and Graphics Departments for their efforts to promote signage and public health awareness for zoo visitors.

Literature Cited

1.  Johnson SR, Crider NJ, Weyer GA, Tosh RD, VerCauteren KC. Bait development for oral delivery of pharmaceuticals to raccoons (Procyon lotor) and striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis). J Wildl Dis. 2016;52(4):893–901.

2.  Rainwater KL, Marchese K, Slavinski S, Humberg LA, Dubovi EJ. Health survey of free-ranging raccoons (Procyon lotor) in Central Park, New York, NY, USA: implications for human and domestic animal health. J Wildl Dis. 2017;53(2):272–284.


Speaker Information
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Marisa Bezjian, DVM
Animal Health Department
Zoo Miami
Miami, FL, USA

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