Raccoon latrines can be deadly

The next time you see a raccoon pictured with a park ranger's hat, imagine it instead with the robe and scythe of the grim reaper.

Bellingham resident Jon Shaughnessy learned about the downside of raccoons soon after he found some of their potentially deadly droppings beneath his porch.

"I said, 'Whoa, this is serious stuff,'" he said. "People die from it."

He's right. Read on, but the story isn't pretty.

Many raccoons have roundworms called Baylisascaris in their intestines. The roundworms produce millions of eggs, which are passed on in the raccoon's feces. Those hardy eggs can take hold inside people and can cause fatal brain infections.

Infected raccoons have been found throughout the country. The critters often defecate in woodpiles; beneath porches; by and on trees; on decks, roofs and garages; and on flat surfaces, such as logs, stumps and large rocks.

When researchers inspected the backyards of 119 suburban Chicago homes, they found raccoon latrines in 61 of them. Fourteen of the latrines had roundworm eggs.

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