Monday, August 30, 2010

Is the fox rabid?

(NOTE: This photo image was captured last winter in my meadow by my infra red motion detecting camera.)  On to today: A friend called me from Tawas State Park with a question of urgency. A camper had told her to watch out for the rabid fox along the waterfront trail, a trail not far from the campground. I asked her why the fox was thought to be rabid.  "This guy told me it was, it's hair is falling out and it is near the trail." Facts are important when it comes to safety around wildlife as thousands of us set off  this Labor Day weekend for camping, hiking and exploring adventures in the woods and along the shorelines of our great State of Michigan, a state rich with wildlife and some toothy predators.  And one fact is just because you see wildlife in the daytime that is not running away from people does not make it rabid.  And the lethargy and loss of fur of the fox in question is most likely from mange, a skin disease caused by a tiny mite.  What is important is we all behave well around wildlife and that means not feeding species that are sadly becoming habituated to human activity, like the bolder foxes of Tawas State Park.  And if approached by a big predator: coyote, bear, wolf or cougar (Yes, Michigan has a very few cougars) we never ever run away. Running can stir up a predatory response and that is not a good thing. As for rabies, that is always a possible although unlikely reason for a mammal to be bold and out in the daytime. In Michigan, fox, raccoons, bats and skunks are the most likely species to carry rabies. But if you want to be really safe, stay home and lock your door.  34,000 people died on our nation's highways last year. I am more fearful of the distracted texting and drunk drivers out there than I am about worrying if an animal is rabid.


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