Watch out for wildlife

Rabies alert: Daring foxes in suburban back yard raise warning of caution toward wild creatures.

May 02, 2001

A RED FOX sunning itself in the backyard may be an interesting wildlife experience for suburbanites, but the animal could also be infected with rabies.

So, too, could raccoons raiding the bird feeder for a nighttime snack, or the skunk digging in a porchside flower bed.

These unexpected animal incursions should remind people of the importance of keeping a cautious distance -- and remind pet owners to make sure their dogs and cats get up-to-date rabies vaccinations.

A bite from a diseased wild animal is fatal for an unvaccinated pet; the rabies virus rapidly attacks the nervous system.

People bitten or badly scratched by an animal with rabies can face fatal consequences unless they promptly receive a series of six anti-rabies shots.

Red fox are increasingly abundant these days, Maryland biologists note. They are attracted to human habitat by squirrels, rabbits, mice and open garbage cans.

And they can be especially bold around humans, even if they don't normally attack.

That's the case in a Timonium neighborhood where a family of foxes lazes around a backyard swimming pool, fearlessly plays tag in the front lawn and kills songbirds and pet cats. Residents are no longer amused by this novelty of nature.

Bats also carry rabies. Usually they are afraid of humans and can avoid incidental contact by a keen sense of sonar navigation.

Warmer months provide increased opportunity for human and pet encounters with wild animals and the chance of contracting rabies. Be cautious in approaching these potential wild carriers and make sure your pet has a current rabies vaccination.

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