November 30, 2021

Rabid deer found in 2 counties

Photo courtesy Jennifer Peaslee

A white-tailed deer, similar to this one, was found rabid earlier this month in Cortland County. Another rabid deer was found in Cayuga County, but wildlife experts say they haven’t seen an abnormal spike in rabies in deer.

Rabid deer have been found in Cortland and Cayuga counties, but other than that, there doesn’t appear to be an abnormally high number of cases, a Cornell University ecologist said.

Earlier this month, deer with rabies were reported in Ontario, Cortland and Cayuga counties.

The white-tailed buck in Cortland County was found circling a yard and appeared to be thin, according to Cornell University’s Wildlife Health Lab. The deer in Cayuga County was found on the ground, thrashing about and unable to get up.

Both deer were euthanized by state Department of Environmental Conservation officers and brain samples were submitted to the Wadsworth Lab of the state’s Department of Health for evaluation, where it was determined the deer had rabies.

While the cases happened about the same time recently, Krysten Schuler, a wildlife disease ecologist with the Wildlife Health Lab, was hesitant to say that an outbreak was occurring.

“These things have happened before,” she said.

In these cases, the deer weren’t acting aggressively, but were very calm.

This can be a sign of rabies, which people may think only makes animals act aggressively, said Jeff Wernick, a Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman.

“Animals can act differently depending on species,” he said. “Not all are aggressive, and there is typically no foaming at the mouth observed with wildlife.”

The most common rabid animals the Department of Environmental Conservation reports are raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats, Wernick said, though any mammal — including humans — can be infected with it.

Feral cats tend to be the most common animals that people get rabies from, as people will try to help a sick or hurt cat and get scratched or bitten.

If not treated properly, rabies in humans can result in death, he said. The best way to avoid rabies is to not approach strange acting wildlife.

“If you are bitten or scratched, you should contact your county health department immediately to report the exposure,” he said. “They will determine if treatment is necessary.”

If you see an animal showing signs of rabies, call police, animal control or a local Department of Environmental Conservation office, Wernick said.

Schuler said hunters shouldn’t shoot an animal they suspect has rabies. Instead, call the Department of Environmental Conservation, which can take better samples.


What to do

To reduce your risk of coming in contact with rabid animals:

  • Vaccinate your pets.
  • Keep your pets confined.
  • Protect small pets, such as rabbits or guinea pigs, from predators. Keep them in cages or inside because they can’t be vaccinated against rabies.
  • Report stray animals.
  • Don’t approach wild animals. Wild animals with rabies may seem unafraid of people.
  • Keep bats out of your home.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic