(Editor’s Note: Pocket-sized rabies reminder cards are available to news media and the public and may be ordered through county Extension agents.)
SAN ANGELO –Hunters going afield this fall might get more than they bargained for, especially if they confront a rabid animal. Three turkey hunters near San Angelo certainly won’t argue that. While making their way to a blind in the predawn twilight during the spring 1994 season, one of the members was attacked by a rabid grey fox. The fox ran off, then returned for a second attack and the hunters were able to kill the animal. All three hunters were treated with post-exposure rabies vaccinations.
“We’ve had quite a battle with rabies over much of West and South Texas for the last three years” says Dale Rollins, San Angelo-based wildlife specialist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service. Besides the fox attack, several other incidents involving rabid bobcats and foxes have occurred near San Angelo.
“Things seem to have slowed down some in the last six months, but it’s still wise to exercise caution when afield,” he says.
Rabid foxes and bobcats have been reported over much of the western Edwards Plateau, where many of Texas’ deer hunters concentrate. Rabid coyotes are more common in the south Texas brush country, another popular area for deer hunters.
“Any time you put that many people in the woods, the risk of contact with rabid animals increases,” he says.
Rabies is transmitted by the bite of infected animals. In Texas, most cases are associated with skunks, foxes, coyotes, bobcats and bats, however the disease can be found in any mammal. Foxes tend to be the species most likely to be encountered by deer hunters in the area surrounding San Angelo.
Rollins says that exercise a little caution and common sense can minimize any risk of exposure to rabid animals.
“Be wary of any animal that exhibits unusual behavior, especially a lack of fear toward humans,” he says.
“Unusual behavior can be something as benign as being active during daylight hours,” he says. Most animals like foxes and bocats are normally nocturnal creatures.
If humans are exposed to a possibly rabid animal, Rollins says that the victim should act promptly.
“Wash the bite wound thoroughly with soap and water, then seek medical attention immediately,” he advises. The animal should be shot, but not in the head, and submitted to a local veterinarian or public health authority for testing.
Quail hunters should make sure their bird dogs have current rabies vaccinations.
“Overall, it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he adds.