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Concerns over potentially poisonous caterpillar

Concerns over potentially poisonous caterpillar (WRGB) 

ALBANY, NY (WRGB)--Some have seen it here in the Capital Region, the hickory tussock moth caterpillar.

Some see a cute critter, others walk away.

"My sisters were actually playing with it, poking it with a tree branch..I wouldn't touch it anyway!," said Randishua Williams of Albany.

And it's a good thing, the white furry caterpillar can leave behind a surprise.

"It's a very common insect in this region that happens to be having a particularly good year this year," said entomologist Dr. Timothy McCabe.

Dr. McCabe says the trouble comes not from the caterpillar crawling on you, but from petting it, or brushing it off yourself.

"It has what we call urticating hairs, so if you rub against the caterpillar, you'll drag some of these hairs into your skin." he said.

We also spoke with the Department of Environmental Conservation about the critter, and a spokesman says on those hairs are chemical toxins, and when they get stuck in skin, a person may experience a rash similar to poison ivy.

And in rare, more extreme cases, the person may experience vomiting and difficulty breathing.

We reached out to see who else has seen the crawler in the Capital Region, and one mom tweeted at us that she saw one at Voorheesville Elementary School.

"Not to sound alarm," she said, "but I cannot tell you how much my four year old son wanted to pick it up!"

Dr, McCabe says it's safe to just brush off the bug with a twig.

The DEC says surprisingly, this can also affect pets if the hairs come in contact with a dog or a cat on the tip of its nose, the reaction is similar to that of a human, which McCabe tells us could last hours, or sometimes days.


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