Archive for Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Letter: Wildlife warning

May 8, 2013


To the editor:

The Journal-World article of Sunday May, 5 entitled “Concert … baby wildlife” encourages the creation of serious public health problems. Rabies is a real and life-threatening problem. It is a natural disease of dogs, cats, bats and wild carnivores (raccoon, fox, and to a lesser extent opossum). All warm-blooded animals are susceptible.

Rabies is spread to humans by the saliva of infected mammals by bite wound or a wound created while examining the mouth. The saliva is infective several days before symptoms are shown by the animal. Incubation is 15 to 50 days (time from when rabies virus is injected into a mammal until the newly infected animal is contagious). Therefore, any rescue attempts of wild or feral animals is highly discouraged.

Regarding public health, bite wounds or wounds exposed to the saliva of a wild animal or unvaccinated domestic pet, the choices are to submit the brain for diagnostics, quarantine the animal, or rabies prevention treatment of the exposed person. If a dead bat is found in a room were people sleep, the above also applies. If bitten by a vaccinated animal, the vaccination history should be discussed with the owner and veterinarian. A rabies vaccination is only considered official if done by an accredited veterinarian with records of the vaccination. The vaccine is only considered effective for a species if stated on the label and the vaccination schedule followed.

Also, herons will strike and it is very possible to lose an eye or a piece of your nose or face.


Ken Lassman 5 years ago

I'm not sure what your issue is here. Are you implying that raising funds to rehab injured wildlife or raising parent-less wildlife babies is creating a dangerous disease vector because they are not taking necessary precautions against the spread of disease? Do you have any evidence that this is the case? If so, please let us know. Otherwise, it seems that if necessary precautions are taken that wildlife rehab operations like Operation Wildlife are providing a valuable and valued service that not only helps keep other species populations healthy, it also provides a valuable monitor on the health of habitat and alerts us to threats earlier than if these services were not provided.

Your reminder that there need to be precautions against disease is of course a sensible position to state. But implying that there is no value and even danger in providing wildlife rehab services to our community and communities like us is not sensible at all. That's throwing the baby out with the bathwater. As a veterinarian perhaps you should consider volunteering some of your services to the organization, something they no doubt would value, and if there are any actual concerns that arise (and it's not at all clear that there are), help provide safer protocol so that this valued service can continue in a safer manner.

gr 5 years ago

Evidence? That is what he is lacking on a number of issues.

But thanks for pointing out he's a veterinarian. I missed observing that. Kind of explains a lot.

Maybe some scientific peer reviewed evidence he could give showing the trials of the rabies vaccine he is peddling. Maybe some scientific peer reviewed evidence showing how many cases of rabies are transmitted by saliva.

But then, hey, why would he want to do that. "is only considered effective for a species if stated on the label" tells all. We got one for that animal, and another for that one, and another for that one.... $

christy kennedy 5 years ago

I'm not sure what your issue is either. Did you read the article? Did you see some suggestion the rest of us can't see that the public should start chasing down and grabbing wild animals?

There IS a warning about great-blue herons. And there ARE a variety of risks involved, but the article is about THE people who are specifically trained (and permitted by state and federal governments) to handle and care for wild animals in distress. And that the general public should NOT do this is a major part of any credible wildlife rehab program's mission and public education efforts.

OWL is a tremendous resource for the rest of us, and where we turn for information and assistance when an injured or ill wild animal is found—they receive and rescue animals for that animal's sake, and in a few cases this REMOVES a possible public health threat. That said, the majority of birds and mammals and the occasional reptile in their care are little or no threat to humans whatsoever. Their staff and volunteers have all undergone a rabies pre-exposure vaccine series as part of their safety program. And they probably know more about the current status of rabies in various wild populations than anybody other than a few state biologists.

Wildlife rehab is a labor intensive and high-cost endeavor generally not supported by any state or local funding. They rely entirely on donations from the public and local businesses and grants. They rely on in-kind donations as well, like veterinarians everywhere who donate their time and expertise. You can either lend a hand or get out of the way.

I still can't figure out how an article about a much-needed fundraiser for an animal rescue facility took you straight to a rabies threat to the public. You sound ill-informed. Learning a bit about the program, and wildlife rehab in general, might be a good way to avoid jumping to any further illogical conclusions.

50YearResident 5 years ago

Is it wise to try to rehab Raccoons? They are a source of rabies and it would be hard to fully vaccinate them while rehabbing because of the follow up shots necessary after release. If I am not mistaken, and I could be, it is illegal to release a raccoon back into the wild here in Kansas because of the rabies threat. I think the law in Kansas is that they must be euthanaised and not relocated or released.

Opwildlife 5 years ago

I'd like to take a minute to address some of the concerns listed above. Operation WildLife (OWL) acts in the best interest of each animal we receive. I'd like to give factual information that any one of you can look up. Please go to the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine Rabies Diagnostic Lab website. They have compiled statistics since 1995 on a number of different animals that they've tested for rabies. Just to give you a 5 year review on just raccoons ~ 320 total raccoons tested / 307 tested negative / 3 tested positive / 10 were untestable samples. So statistically ~ less than .009 were positive for rabies. It also lists the counties those positives were found in and they were (Reno, Riley, Marion). So Douglas county HAS NOT HAD a positive rabies raccoon for 5 years and if you look at the data further it's probably a lot more than that. To answer the questions posed by 50YearResident ~ it is not illegal to release a rehabilitated raccoon back into the wild. It is illegal to vaccinate them for rabies because the vaccine has only been tested on domestic species. Just for clarification Operation WildLife DOES NOT VACCINATE WILD ANIMALS FOR RABIES. If we suspect a wild animal of having rabies it is euthanized and sent to K-State for testing. Our organization acts a barometer for the health of our wildlife populations. Not only do we provide rehabilitative services but we monitor disease cycles, poisoning issues and other anomolies that happen in nature. One of our primary goals is educating members of the general public about issues regarding wildlife. In closing I want to iterate that 99% of the wildlife we care for have been injured by man, something we own or have built. We were made the caretakers and it's our responsibility to be good stewards not to scare people with incomplete facts. Thank you for the positive support.

gr 5 years ago

Regarding rabies (or not), here's an interesting read and bias:

"It is illegal to vaccinate them for rabies because the vaccine has only been tested on domestic species."

Well, now, isn't that an interesting bit of information. Just because it hasn't been tested. Looks like some would suggest "better safe than sorry", but instead it is made "illegal"?! Why? I just find that absolutely fascinating. Could it be ........ nah..... that couldn't be true, could it?

But as far as testing, has it really been tested, scientifically tested, whether domestically or otherwise? According to what I found, the idea was started by the fraud, Pasteur, who vaccinated 19 people who were "thought" to have been bitten by a rabid wolf. Only 3 (15%) died after taking the vaccine, so the flim-flam man declared success. The wolf was never tested for rabies. But hey, if you're a vet, why not promote it. Maybe it is true....

Leslie Swearingen 5 years ago

As someone who loves and values wildlife, I thank you and your group for all that you do to save them. Far too much harm has been done to animals because of those who see them as something to dominate and use or else to fear and demonize. They are marvelous, wonderful creatures, of the most beautiful colors and patterns. We need to respect them for what they are.

hipgrrrrl 5 years ago

I have to laugh when I read this. Around two years ago, in the dead of winter, we had a wild goose wandering around our property with a broken wing. I called Game and Fish, but received no call back. Then, I called a wildlife rehab place (but I have no idea who). The lady I spoke with oh-so-casually said I could bring it in. I pointed out that I had no idea how to catch it and nothing to tote it around in. She said something super close to: "Oh, just wait until dusk and throw a blanket over it. You can just put it in your car and drive it in!" Frankly, I was so taken aback by the whole of idea of catching a wild goose - with blanket or no blanket - I was almost grateful when it wandered off across the ice and out of reach. I mean - a wild goose, covered with a blanket in the back of my car. I still can't even begin to imagine what that car ride would have been like :).

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