New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
Media contact: Dan Williams, (505) 476-8004
Public contact: (505) 476-8000
dan.williams@state.nm.us

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, APRIL 16, 2008:

DEAD FOX FOUND IN SIERRA COUNTY TESTS POSITIVE FOR RABIES

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES -- A dead fox found in the Beaverhead area of the Gila National Forest about 50 miles northwest of Truth or Consequences has tested positive for rabies, prompting the Department of Game and Fish to re-emphasize the urgency for area residents to vaccinate their pets and livestock against the spreading disease.

The fox found April 9 was the first confirmed rabid fox in Sierra County and the sixth in southwestern New Mexico this year. The disease was first confirmed in southwestern New Mexico in 2007, when nine foxes and one bobcat tested positive for rabies in Catron County. Since then, it has spread to Grant and Sierra counties. The most recent rabid fox was found at the far western edge of Sierra County near the top of a drainage to the Gila River. To date, no rabid animals have been reported east of the Continental Divide.

Fox rabies has been a problem for several decades in Arizona and now has spread into western New Mexico. Rabies is a deadly viral disease that affects al mammals and can be prevented but not cured. Kerry Mower, wildlife health specialist with the Department of Game and Fish, said rabies in foxes probably will continue to be a problem in New Mexico.

"I expect the disease will run its course and eventually wind down in the coming years, and then we will see the disease cycle up and down with the fox population," Mower said. The current fox population in southwestern New Mexico appears to be high, he said, adding that cases of canine distemper also appear to be increasing in the area.

Mower said the key to controlling the disease is to have a licensed veterinarian vaccinate all pets and livestock. Area residents also can protect themselves and their animals by keeping pet food indoors, putting trash out only on pickup day, and removing bird feeders that may attract foxes and other wild animals to their property.

The Department of Game and Fish collects protected animals that are sick or dead and has them tested for rabies if the animals have been exposed to humans or are considered a potential health risk to humans.

Here are some guidelines to help protect yourself and your family from rabies:

  • Stay away from wild or unfamiliar animals. Do not attempt to feed, approach, or touch wild animals (alive or dead). Teach this important message to your children. Rabid animals may show no fear of people and may seem friendly or become aggressive.

  • Pets should be up-to-date on rabies vaccinations and wearing current license tags on their collar.

  • Horses and other valuable livestock should be considered for rabies vaccination to protect them from wild rabid animals that may attack them.

  • If you or a loved one are bitten by an animal, or come into contact with an animal’s saliva, wash the exposed site immediately with soap and water. Be sure to report the bite to local animal control and seek medical care as soon as possible. 

  • Keep pets on a leash at all times.

  • If your cat or dog has been bitten or scratched, call your pet’s veterinarian, even if the wound appears to be superficial.

  • If you see a sick or dead wild animal, or a wild animal acting abnormally, report it to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish at (575) 532-2100 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, or anytime at (505) 827-9376.
                 
    For more information about rabies call the Department of Health at (505) 827-0006 or visit the Department of Health website at http://www.health.state.nm.us/epi/rabies.html.
     

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