The spring and summer months may bring sunny skies and warmer temperatures to Texoma, but with the warmer weather, also comes an increase in the wild animal population inside Wichita Falls city limits. These animals are making their way in, as they search for food, water and shelter.
It's no surprise then, with a rise in the number of wild animals and critters, there's also an increased concern among city officials about rabies.
Steve Dodge, Wichita Falls Animal Control Supervisor expressed his worry about the virus. "That's when skunks are going to be out and raccoons and we worry a lot about rabies."
With warmer temperatures already here in Wichita Falls, along with a North Texas man who was bit by a rabid skunk just a few weeks ago, city officials are encouraging Texomans (especially those with children and/or pets) to increase their awareness of rabies.
Given the statistics, the city has good reason to encourage people to learn more about the rabies virus.
On average, one to three human rabies cases are reported in the United States each year.
On top of that alarming statistic, Dodge told Newschannel 6 that Animal Control sees animals that test positive for the virus frequently.
The top five carriers of the rabies virus in the state of Texas, as written in the city's press release are bats, raccoons, skunks, coyotes and foxes. In Texoma, the primary culprits of concern are skunks.
People in Texoma and Texas as a whole should avoid any contact or exposure to wild animals, regardless of whether the animals are alive or dead.
As was written in the city's public announcement, the time is now to prepare against potential threats and to protect yourself, your pets, and your children.
In an effort to help Texomans protect their kids and pets from rabies, read the health tip below. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following suggestions:
- Schedule regular veterinarian checkups and rabies vaccination(s) for your pet(s).
- If you spot a stray animal in your neighborhood, call animal control.
- Teach children not to approach any stray or animal they don't know.
- Make sure pets stay indoors until you can supervise them outdoors.
- Avoid attracting stray or wild animals by covering garbage and keeping all pet food and water indoors.
To explain these concepts further:
First and most importantly, Wichita Falls Animal Control Expert Steve Dodge said, "Vaccinate your pets. Get your pets their rabies shots. It's not a 100% guarantee, but it's a preventative and that's better than nothing."
Dodge also said that Texomans should supervise their pets when they are outside, cover their garbage cans, and be sure they're on the look out.
Another contributing factor that attracts wild animals to residential communities might surprise you. Water! That is, as city officials warned in their statement, you don't want to leave your pet's food and/or water dishes outside. Be sure you bring your pet's food and water bowls inside your house, especially overnight.
Steve Dodge told Newschannel 6, "If you don't have a need for your water to be out at night - like you bring your dogs in, put your water up because that's what attracts the raccoons and the skunks, is the water."
Also, if you have children at home, be sure to teach them that they should not interact with or go toward any animal they don't personally know. Do not allow your kids to go near stray animals and explain to them why they're not allowed near those animals.
Lastly, always remember that you should not handle a stray or wild animal by yourself or without calling animal control. Never attempt to capture or shoot a wild animal. If you see a wild animal or stray animal that attacks, bites, or scratches you, call the Wichita Falls Animal Control immediately at (940) 761-7824.
Even if you believe the animal does not look dangerous or threatening, you should not bet on it. Oftentimes, infected animals do not exhibit signs of the virus until later in its development.
"Don't take the risk with these animals. Call us! Let us deal with them. We have the equipment, we have the experience, and we'll take care of it," Dodge said.
Below is an excerpt from the city's news release:
Rabies is 100% preventable by following a few important guidelines:
- Ensure that all pets are current on their rabies vaccinations. Livestock owners are also encouraged to vaccinate horses and other livestock. Any animal that has frequent contact with humans should be vaccinated.
- Don't let pets roam free.
- Stay away from all wild animals and unknown dogs and cats.
- Avoid wild animals-even if they appear friendly.
- Never coax a wild animal to eat from your hand.
- If you encounter a bat, do not handle it. Bats have extremely small teeth and you may not realize that you have been bitten.
- Teach your children to report all bites, scratches and encounters with a wild or unknown animal.
To reduce the risk of exposure to rabies from wildlife, we recommend the following:
- Don't feed or water your pets outside. Even empty bowls will attract wild and stray animals.
- Keep your garbage securely covered. Open garbage will attract wild or stray animals.
- Wild animals should not be kept as pets.
- Enjoy all wild animals from a distance and teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals – even if they appear friendly.
- If you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to city or county animal control officials.
If you have been bitten or scratched by an unknown animal or wildlife, contact your physician or the Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District for immediate assistance.
Also contact City of Wichita Falls Animal Services at (940) 761-7824 to make a report.
Any concerns with possible contact with a possible rabies exposure can be directed to Animal Control at (940) 761-7824.
For more information please contact Animal Services at (940) 761-8894.
To read the news release that the Wichita Falls Public Information Office sent Friday, regarding the "Rabies Watch" in full, click here. The news release is titled "Citizens Encouraged to Beware of Wild Animals."
Or, copy and paste this link: http://www.wichitafallstx.gov/list.aspx?MID=1385 into your browser.
For more information on Animal Control: http://www.wichitafallstx.gov/index.aspx?NID=374
City of Wichita Falls Animal Services Facebook Page: