So far this year four cows in Texas have tested positive for rabies as well as a horse. Confirmed cases of rabies have also been reported in skunks, raccoons, bats, cats, dogs and the fox in Central Texas. In all, 265 cases of rabies have been confirmed this year so far and that number will multiply rapidly through the summer months.

Vance Christie, AgriLife Extension agent in McCulloch County, said management and control efforts started May 28 and are currently focused in McCulloch, Concho, Menard and Mason counties. Brown, Coleman, Gillespie, Kimble, Llano, Mills, Runnels, San Saba, Schleicher, Sutton and Tom Green counties will ultimately be part of the overall surveillance effort to keep the deadly virus from spreading.

“On May 6, we had a confirmed case of Texas fox rabies southwest of Melvin on the McCulloch/Concho county line,” Christie said. “This strain is different from the typical skunk variant and was thought to be eradicated from the area for the past six years. So far, this has been the one isolated case and was found in a cow."

Christie says there is no need for property owners, farmers or ranchers to panic and he is asking ranchers not to kill and bury animals suspected of the disease without first having them tested.

“The main focus is not to cause a panic in the immediate area but rather to let landowners and homeowners understand the situation,” he said. “We need the public’s help to report any encounters with wildlife or strange-acting domestic animals or livestock. It’s important that the public knows that the state will pick up any of the cost associated with testing of the animals. But I want to stress that this is not the time for the ‘Old Three Ss,’ of shoot, shovel and shut-up to avoid any future problems. Doing so could actually prolong the problem.”

Christie said Wildlife Services is currently dropping oral rabies vaccine via helicopter in the four main counties. Animals eat the bait and are inoculated against rabies. As the number of vaccinated animals increases, the disease decreases and lessens the risk of human or animal exposure to rabies.

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“Remember, an animal is considered suspect if it is a target species that is aggressive, unafraid or acting unusual,” Christie said. “Target species include fox, bobcats, raccoons, coyotes and free ranging cats and dogs.”

If a suspect animal is found in the target counties, Christie advises contacting the appropriate personnel such as animal control, sheriff’s department, county trapper or a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game warden.

“If you live out of the city limits and see a suspect animal and cannot contact appropriate personnel, humanely destroy it, but not with a headshot as the animal’s brain must be intact for testing. Keep the carcass cool, but do not freeze it, until appropriate personnel can be contacted," he advises.

Above all, Christie says to think of safety first. He recommends wearing latex or leather gloves when handling all dead animals.