FORT COLLINS, Colo. — One mountain lion and two skunks have tested positive for rabies in Larimer County since the beginning of 2020. The overall number of positive animals in the county is consistent with previous years in March, however, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment (LCDHE) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) urge residents to stay away from stray and wild animals, check pets’ rabies vaccination status and take other precautions to avoid rabies.
Rabies is regularly found in Colorado wildlife, especially skunks and bats. Interaction between humans and wild animals, particularly bats, skunks, foxes and raccoons, increases the risk of rabies exposure to pets and people, said Dr. Jennifer House, Colorado state public health veterinarian.
“If you or your pets have had contact with wildlife, call LCDHE at 970-498-6775 for those in Larimer County or CDPHE at 303-692-2700 immediately,” House said.
She added that it is also crucial to make sure all dogs and cats are vaccinated.
“The vaccine can prevent companion animals from getting rabies from wildlife and possibly exposing your whole family to the disease,” she said.
According to the CDPHE, eight animals have been found carrying rabies in the state so far this year (seven skunks and one mountain lion) including the three that have been found in Larimer County. The numbers represent only animals that were tested after they had encounters with people, pets or livestock. There are many more rabid animals in the Colorado outdoors that never get tested.
Rabies is spread primarily through the bite of rabid animals. It is almost always fatal in humans once symptoms appear. People who have been bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar animal should contact their health care provider immediately to reduce the risk of rabies.
How to stay safe:
Vaccinate your pets. Use a licensed veterinarian, and make sure you keep up with pets’ booster shots.
Leash your dog. Protect dogs and wildlife by keeping your pet on a leash while walking or hiking.
Keep cats and other pets inside at night. Keep dogs within your sight (in a fenced yard or on leash) during the day while outside. Keep pet doors locked at night to keep pets inside and prevent wildlife from entering.
Call your veterinarian promptly if you believe your pet has been exposed to a wild animal.
Call your local public health agency if you have contact with a wild animal.
Vaccinate pastured animals annually. Have a licensed veterinarian administer an approved large-animal rabies vaccine.
Bat-proof your home. Information is available at www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/management
Use a veterinarian-approved flea and tick preventative on your cats and dogs. Fleas and ticks do not transmit rabies, but they do transmit diseases such as plague and Tularemia.
Never touch or feed wild or stray animals. Don’t leave pet food outdoors. You will also attract mice and other small rodents if you leave food out.
Important Phone Numbers/Points of Contact
If you see a sick, orphaned, or dead wild animal, do not touch it, just leave it alone. You can report it to CPW by calling our Fort Collins office at 970-472-4300 or our Denver office at 303-291-7227.
You can also report abnormally acting wildlife to Larimer Humane Society Animal Control at 970-226-3647, ext. 7.
Contact Larimer Humane Society Animal Control at 970-226-3647 if you encounter a lost or stray dog or cat.
If you or your pet has direct contact with wildlife, contact LCDHE at 970-498-6775, or your local health department if located outside of Larimer County.
Tips to recognize sick wildlife:
Many healthy wild animals are normally afraid of humans; sick animals often do not run away when spotted by people. Sick animals may approach people or their pets. Skunks and raccoons are mostly nocturnal and may be sick if they are seen being active during the daytime.
Some rabid animals are overly quiet and passive and want to hide. Don’t bother them.
Rabid wildlife might have trouble walking, flying, eating or drinking. They may walk like they’re “drunk,” i.e. wobbly and off-balance.