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Summary: Those little raccoons playing in your backyard at night look so cute. In fact, you are thinking about feeding them and, perhaps, once they get use to you they will eat from your hand. Before going any further you had better understand about the risk of rabies.

As cute as raccoons look, remember, you are dealing with a wild animal. So, before deciding upon trying to hand-feed one of these little guys here is something to think about. A raccoon may bite you quite accidentally, mistaking a finger for food; or, he may bite you on purpose if he thinks you're taking his food away from him. No matter what the reason is, once bitten you and the raccoon are both in trouble. You will have to be tested for rabies and the local health authorities will want to capture the raccoon that bit you and cut off his head to test him for rabies.

Raccoon rabies has progressed northward through the eastern United States at approximately 25 miles a year, drastically reducing populations of raccoons and posing a serious health threat to humans and domestic animals. The closely related forms of rabies, including those specific to foxes, raccoons and bats, can also infect humans. The disease is almost always fatal to both people and animals.

Some states participate in programs to orally vaccinate raccoons. The oral bait consists of a square block made from a compressed mixture ***image1***of fishmeal and fish oil known to attract raccoons. The vaccine (dyed pink) is inside a plastic packet that is inserted in the middle of the block. Baits are distributed from vehicles or airplanes. Most of the baits are consumed about five days after being distributed.

A raccoon is vaccinated by eating bait containing the vaccine. The raccoon will develop antibodies in two to three weeks that will protect it if it is exposed to another infected raccoon. If enough raccoons are vaccinated, the risk of the spread of rabies will be greatly reduced.
Here are some guidelines when living in close proximity to raccoons:

  • ¢ Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals. Rabid animals do not always appear ill or vicious!
    ¢ Teach children to leave wildlife alone. Be sure your child knows to tell you if an animal bites or scratches them.
    ¢ Have your veterinarian vaccinate your dogs, cats, or ferrets against rabies. Keep pet vaccinations up-to-date.
    ¢ Tightly close garbage cans. Open trash attracts wild or stray animals to your home or yard.
    ¢ Feed your pets indoors; never leave pet food outside as this attracts wildlife.
    ¢ Call your doctor and your local health department for advice if an animal bites or claws you. Report the incident immediately!

Hopefully, this article will change your mind about œadopting a wild animal.

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