Sick. Not “Friendly.”

Pretty much everyone wishes they could befriend a wild animal. It’s not at all uncommon for people to be excited when a wild fox or raccoon seems to randomly approach them without fear. It’s human nature to project that the animal is seeking comfort or companionship, and to fantasize about being able to provide exactly that.

But, if you’re approached by a wild animal, chances are that something is wrong. All wild animals should have self-protective instincts that prevent them from seeking out contact with other animals, like us, who could harm them. When a raccoon or fox is approaching a human, it’s a sign that something is massively amiss.

In the best case scenario, the animal is approaching people because it has been tamed, possibly by being improperly hand-raised. A tame animal should never have been released to the wild, because they can not protect or fend for themselves.

More often, raccoons, skunks, and foxes approaching humans are suffering from canine distemper, a serious viral infection that inflames the brain and causes the animal to lose its instincts and sense of danger. The most dangerous possibility is that the animal is actually suffering from rabies, which can cause it to be fearless or “friendly” in the early stages of the infection.

It is not safe to handle any wild animal without proper training and protection, no matter how friendly it may seem. If you spot a wild animal that seems to want to be your friend, it’s important to call a wildlife rehabilitator, your local animal control, or your local game wardens as soon as possible, so the critter can get the help it needs.

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