FREDERICTON (GNB) – As the weather warms up and the days get longer, wildlife such as raccoons, foxes and skunks are on the move. That means it is time for residents to step up their efforts to prevent the spread of rabies, reminded Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet.

“We encourage all New Brunswickers to continue to take precautions to avoid coming into contact with this serious disease,” said Doucet. “This is a good time to check with your veterinarian to ensure your pets’ rabies vaccinations are up to date. It is also a good time to remind your children about keeping a safe distance from wild animals.”

The provincial government implemented a rabies control program in 2015. A provincial rabies committee was formed to develop a long-term plan to deal with the spread of the disease in the Charlotte County area, and a provincial rabies coordinator was hired.

The government will continue the rabies control program in 2016, including distributing oral rabies vaccine bait this summer. The bait is not harmful to humans, domestic pets or livestock. Oral vaccine distribution is effective at preventing the spread of rabies, but residents of western New Brunswick can also help by ensuring their pets and livestock are vaccinated.

The provincial government recommends making properties as unenticing to wild animals as possible by keeping garbage and compost bins secured and refraining from leaving pet food outside.

Residents should also refrain from relocating wildlife. Those who live trap raccoons and skunks on their properties should not move the animals to another area because they could be spreading disease.

For information about what to do with nuisance wildlife, visit the Department of Natural Resources website.

“The public plays an important role in preventing the spread of rabies,” said Doucet. “I encourage anyone who sees an animal showing rabies-like symptoms to call 811.”

Symptoms consistent with rabies include:

  • animals that are normally docile may become aggressive;
  • wild animals such as raccoons and skunks, which are normally most active at night, may become more active during the day;
  • infected animals often move slowly, appear unco-ordinated, fall down or drag their limbs;
  • bats with rabies often cannot fly;
  • racoons, skunks or foxes with porcupine quills, or raccoons or foxes with a strong skunk-like odour, may be rabid.

Since May 2014, 27 cases of the disease have been confirmed in raccoons and skunks in the Charlotte County area. So far in 2016, one case has been confirmed, in the Elmsville area of Charlotte County.

More information about rabies, including a surveillance map of confirmed cases, is available online.