At a glance
Take precautions when dealing with wildlife
If you find bats in your attic, have raccoons under your porch, or come across a sick or injured animal, contact a wildlife control professional. Do not try to remove the animals yourself.
In Fort Wayne call Animal Care & Control at 427-1244.
In Allen County and the surrounding area, the following companies are licensed by the DNR to remove wildlife: Critter Control 625-3099; Naylor and Sons 436-2792; Orkin Pest 471-5803; Basic Wildlife Removal 866-257-5903; Sly Fox Wildlife Control 637-8861 or 710-7878 (also responds to calls on coyotes).
To protect against rabies
•Do not touch or feed wild animals or stray dogs or cats.
•Make sure your pets are up-to-date on rabies vaccinations.
•Secure trash and any pet food stored outdoors.
•Stay away from any animal that is behaving aggressively or a wild animal that appears ill or is acting unusually friendly.
•When finding a bat indoors that may have had contact with someone, do not release it before calling the local animal control agency to determine whether it should be tested.
Source: Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health
Those wild raccoons and skunks may look like loveable characters out of a Disney movie, but trying to interact with them could result in serious consequences, including expensive medical treatments.
In May and June of 2011 there were two reports of wild animal bites in Allen County, compared with 14 during the same two-month span this year, according to Peggy Bender, spokeswoman for Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control.
This year’s bites were inflicted by squirrels, ferrets, raccoons and bats in addition to one minor scratch from a muskrat, Bender said.
Since many wild animals – particularly skunks, raccoons and bats – are prone to rabies, it’s important not to feed wild animals or create conditions that are favorable for wild creatures, such as unsecured garbage, Bender said.
Cats and dogs are considered low-risk since most are routinely vaccinated for rabies.
“Many wild animals are opportunists and will take advantage of any food or garbage that is unsecured,” Bender said.
Rabies is a disease that affects the brain and central nervous system. The rabies virus is carried in the saliva of infected animals and is usually transmitted to people and other animals when they are bitten or scratched by the rabid animal. If left untreated, rabies is fatal.
The early spring, recent drought and hot weather are driving more wild animals out of their natural habitats in search of food and water, which often brings them to someone’s yard, birdbath or pond, said Bob Dispenza, park and education manager at Metea Park.
“Animals go where the water and food are,” Dispenza said.
A lot of plants have been destroyed by the drought, as well, so wildlife is often drawn to healthy plants that people have nurtured and watered, he said.
“Many homes have dog and cat food and watering bowls outside as well, and this can be a big draw for wildlife,” Dispenza said.
The first thing a bat does when it wakes up is search for water.
“If there’s a pond or a container of water, then there are probably bats,” Dispenza said.
Several people were bitten while trying to remove bats that had entered their homes.
With bats, rabies is always a concern, said John Silcox, spokesman for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health.
All wild animal bite reports are sent to the Department of Health, where each case is evaluated to determine the potential exposure to rabies, Silcox said.
Officials must find and capture an animal in order to determine if it has rabies, which can prove complicated if it’s a wild animal, Silcox said.
If the animal cannot be found, then department officials consult with physicians and animal control specialists to determine whether preventive rabies treatments are necessary, Silcox said.
Depending on the exposure, it may be necessary for a person bitten or scratched to get rabies shots.
These post-exposure vaccinations can cost around $9,000 for those without health insurance.
While bats, in particular, are beneficial in nature for pollination and insect control, their bites are hard to detect which can be troublesome if one is found in the home.
Whenever a bat is found in a room with a sleeping person or a young child or person with disabilities, it is also important to have the bat tested.
According to the Department of Health, three people died last year in the United States from bat-type rabies because family members did not realize the person had been bitten.
If bitten by a wild animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water, seek medical attention and report the incident to the local animal control agency immediately.