Rabies Case a Reminder to Leave Wildlife in the Wild

A recent rabid raccoon case in Alabama serves as a reminder that the public should not take wild animals from their natural environment. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has confirmed one of four baby raccoons that were recently relocated from Baldwin County to Walker County tested positive for rabies. The raccoon exposed a group of adults and children in both counties to rabies. 
 
Most wildlife is protected under law and may not be legally taken from the wild or kept as pets. Doing so is harmful to the animal and can put humans at risk of exposure to various diseases, including rabies. If you find wildlife, leave it in the wild. 
 
According to Gary Moody, Wildlife Section Chief for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF), the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has expended tremendous resources in recent years to eradicate raccoon rabies from portions of Alabama. “A movement such as this threatens the entire multi-year effort as raccoon rabies could be potentially reintroduced back into a previously treated area,” Moody said. “This case is an example of someone picking up cute and fuzzy wildlife that could have resulted in fatal consequences for both humans and other wildlife. Private ownership of wildlife is illegal for good reason.”
 
Rabies is a viral disease that can affect all mammals and is considered to be 100 percent fatal. Humans who have been exposed to rabies must undergo the recommended medical treatment in order to prevent the disease. 
 
To limit potential exposure to rabies or other diseases sometimes carried by wildlife, avoid contact with wild animals or domestic animals acting in a strange or unusual manner. If you are bitten or scratched by a wild animal, rinse the wound thoroughly under running water and seek medical treatment immediately. For more information about rabies prevention, click here
 
“The best way to avoid exposure to rabies is to leave wild animals in the wild,” said Keith Gauldin, a WFF wildlife biologist. “Though they may be cute, wildlife young can also be dangerous. Rabies is only one of the many dangers involved in handling wild animals.”
 
Rabies isn’t the only danger when dealing with wildlife. Keeping wild animals in captivity is illegal and dangerous. In the 1990s, captive deer that had become domesticated in Alabama were responsible for the deaths of two people. 
 
Taking animals from their natural environment robs them of an opportunity to learn to survive, even if that means the animal must fend for itself. If you find wildlife that has been injured, contact a WFF district office. For a complete list of WFF district wildlife offices, visit www.outdooralabama.com.
 
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions:  Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.  To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.
 
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