Avoid Contact with Wildlife to Prevent Exposure to Rabies

Published on June 28, 2021

Two baby raccoons

Weld County, CO — After a recent incident in which a concerned citizen was issued a court summons for adopting and caring for a litter of baby raccoons — they appeared to be abandoned — the Weld County Health Department reminds residents it’s best to leave wild animals alone. In addition to being against the law to possess or feed a wild animal without special licensing, when humans come into contact with (touch or handle) wild animals who are known vectors for rabies, those animals typically end up having to be euthanized and tested for rabies.

Even if you find a young animal that seems injured or orphaned, their parents are often nearby and will come to check on and feed their young from time to time. Well-meaning people, who take young wild animals into their home, are harming the animal’s chance of survival. If you encounter a wild animal and believe it has been abandoned or it appears sick or injured, please call Colorado Parks and Wildlife at (970) 472-4300 or a known animal rehabilitation center with the knowledge and expertise to respond to the situation.

To limit your exposure to rabies:

  • Do not feed, touch, or handle wild animals and be cautious of stray dogs and cats.
  • Have your own dogs, cats, horses, and livestock vaccinated regularly by a licensed veterinarian.
  • Spay or neuter your pets to reduce the number of unwanted or stray animals.

This year, Weld County has had six confirmed cases of animal rabies (all skunks). Skunks and bats are the primary vectors for rabies in Colorado, but rabies has also been found in raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and, of course, dogs and cats. Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that affects the nervous system. Rabies causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord and is nearly always fatal. It is transmitted in saliva through the bite of an infected animal. The virus also can be transmitted in saliva to an open cut, scratch, or wound. If a person suspects they have been exposed to rabies, they should contact their medical provider immediately. Effective vaccination treatment is available to prevent rabies if started before symptoms appear.

WCDPHE keeps track of animal-related diseases in Weld County with interactive maps online. For more information about rabies and other animal-related diseases, go to the WCDPHE zoonotic diseases webpage or call (970) 304-6415.

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