Rabies in the region on a cyclical rise

By Emily Hilley-Sierzchula
Rabies is on the rise in Llano, with eight confirmed cases as of Feb. 19, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). Of those cases, seve were skunks along with one fox. The only case of rabies reported in Burnet County was a fox, according to DSHS records.
The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system, causing brain disease. It is always fatal if left untreated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Wild animal behavior and the extended regional drought are likely causes, a wildlife veterinarian said Thursday, Feb. 26.
“Rabies tends to be cyclical with ups and downs and spikes, with an upward trend over the past couple of years,” said Dr. Bob Dittmar, DVM, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) Wildlife Veterinarian in Kerrville, Thursday, Feb. 26. “Of course, people are moving farther out into the suburbs and other places where contact with wildlife is more frequent.”
Critters sometimes don’t get the memo they’re no longer in the wilderness.
“In some ways [the suburbs] make a better habitat for them because they have food sources,” Dittmar said, mentioning pet food and garbage that attract rodents, which then summon carnivores such as foxes.
“There’s probably a whole lot more foxes and bobcats living with us in the suburbs than we realize,” he said. “We’re sharing space with them.”
Although cases are low in Burnet County, things will likely pick up because it is mating season for skunks, foxes and raccoons. Additionally, animals become more active as the weather warms.
Only nearby Williamson and Travis counties had more cases than Llano County last year (largely because of the bat population there,) according to DSHS.
As if anyone needs another reason to be annoyed by skunks, they are responsible for around 50-80 percent of rabies cases in Burnet and Llano counties.
For more, see Tuesday's Highlander.

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