7 Warnings About Traveling in Upstate N.Y.

Pack a lot of Claritin.

As a native of western N.Y. (that means west of Buffalo, a.k.a the 10th "worst place to live in New York State"), I recognize both its majestic beauty and the dark evil lurking underneath. For all of its wondrous nature, lively ecosystems, and fresh air, it's a minefield of allergens, driving there is dangerous, and a lot of it is haunted (which isn't necessarily a bad thing, mind you).

But as popular a destination as upstate is for weary city-dwellers and New England travelers, preparing for the downsides can greatly enhance your trip. Read on, and the next time you venture to upstate N.Y. be sure to pack plenty of Claritin, drive carefully, and beware of vandals.

Rabid Animals

According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, "raccoons are among the most widespread mammals in New York State...Raccoon rabies reached New York in 1990 and has become widespread. Rabies is a viral disease with symptoms similar to distemper. Rabid raccoons may behave aggressively, salivate heavily, or have paralyzed hind legs. Rabies can be transmitted to humans and other animals by the bite of an infected animal. If you suspect a raccoon is rabid, avoid or destroy the animal and contact local health officials."

My mother's family had a pet raccoon for a few months. They found it abandoned as a baby and raised it to be a comfortable, domestic pet (named "Smoky"). Then one day it escaped the house and hopefully learned to forage and enjoyed a life of freedom.

All that's to say: If you see a raccoon wandering about in the daytime, that creature has rabies, and you need to stay away from it.

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