NATURE NOTE – Number 69 May 28, 2023
“Mom, I’m going camping next weekend with the Scouts!!!!”
“Great. Watch out for the bears and rattlesnakes and poison ivy and ticks and mosquitoes, and don’t get near any animal, you might get rabies!”
Sound familiar? Well, I’m sure if these words are not often said, they are often thought. And yes, there is some danger in scouts going out into the wilds. Maybe not as much as going to the mall, but some. So let’s talk about one of them that might set Mom’s mind at ease. A little. Maybe.
Our Current Topic: Rabies
First, we are going to concentrate on wild animals. Let’s hope that your Fido and Fluffy, as well as the dog and cat down the street are vaccinated. As far as which wild animals get and transmit rabies, it breaks out something like this: 33% of the known cases are in bats; 30% in raccoons; 20% in skunks; 7% in foxes; and the remainder in various other animals. So, it looks like being in the wild is no more dangerous than being in your back yard as far as exposure to the animals most likely to carry rabies. So be careful taking out the trash after dark. As far as other animals, there are almost no confirmed cases of rabies in squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, mice, or shrews. Supposedly, possums do not get or transmit rabies. (See NATURE NOTE #59). Herbivores, such as deer, cows, sheep, etc. are very unlikely to have rabies. So take these off the worry list. Next, to get rabies, you almost have to have been bitten by an infected animal. Touching it, or even having the animal scratch you is unlikely to pass on rabies. Now if you are bitten, you have a serious situation. Rabies is almost always fatal to humans. There are something like 15 known survivors worldwide that have survived without treatment. So this means IF you ARE bitten by a suspected animal, GET TREATMENT IMMEDIATELY. The vaccine is a must. Of course this applies to domestic dogs and cats as well if they are not vaccinated or it has expired. Always check with the dog’s owner and get the information. So how do you identify an animal with rabies? There are signs or indicators. These are not foolproof, so use caution here. Often they are aggressive. Often they drool. They may act lethargic, stagger, or seem to be paralyzed. Avoid any animal, wild or domesticated that shows these or other strange signs, especially if it is a raccoon or skunk. And don’t pick up a bat!
This information is not intended to be medical advice in any way, but simply a way to alert you, a scout leader responsible for scouts on an outing, of rabies and some general information about its most likely carriers, the symptoms, and the need to consult with medical professionals if there is reason to think that someone has been bitten, attacked, or even scratched by an animal. It is also important to alert officials (rangers, wildlife police, local police, animal control, camp staff) of any suspicious animal you see that might possibly have rabies, and avoid that animal. The chance of this happening on an outing is pretty slim, but as I once was told years ago, BE PREPARED! Don’t be afraid of the outdoors, just respect it and learn more about it.
This Opportunity has nothing to do with our Current Topic, but it may be something of interest, especially to Cub Scout leaders interested in introducing their youngest scouts to nature. I recently came across a copy of a 48-page book entitled On the Nature Trail by Kathleen Yale and published by Storey Publishing (www.storey.com). It is intended to be used by 4 to 8-year-olds and gives them pages to use as they discover nature along a trail. I thought it was well written and provided an opportunity to interest kids in nature. It might be worth checking out for your pack. It costs $12.95 each. ISBN 9781635861976.
Thanks for reading NATURE NOTES.