Rabies fear prompts NM to ban animal relocations

September 10, 2013 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A fear that a strain of rabies might spread from Arizona deeper into [auth] New Mexico has prompted New Mexico officials to prohibit releases of captured foxes and some other species back into the wild, resulting in those animals being killed instead.

The ban on relocating nuisance animals also applies to raccoons, skunks, coyotes, bats and some bobcats, the Albuquerque Journal reported (

Wildlife health specialist Kerry Mower of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department said the ban imposed in June resulted from fears that Arizona fox rabies could spread from the southwest quadrant of New Mexico.

Health officials don’t want it to reach the Rio Grande because the river serves as a wildlife corridor that would allow animals to easily move north and south, carrying with them any diseases that they have, Mower said.

“At the beginning of the summer, we had a couple of confirmed rabies tests, so that always make us really quite jittery,” Mower said.

A deadly disease, rabies often is transmitted to humans by exposure to saliva from their own dogs or cats, which may have been infected by a fight with a wild animal.

Several years ago in Silver City, a dog became rabid after biting a fox, and about 10 people who were exposed to the dog were treated to prevent the disease, said Paul Ettestad, public health veterinarian with the state Department of Health.

Such treatment, which must be done within 10 days of infection, involves injections of both immunoglobulin and vaccine.

Before this summer, state Game and Fish would relocate animals a considerable distance away from locations where the animals were pestering people.

Now, however, the animals will be euthanized, Mower said.

Part of the decision was based on the existence of large populations of the animals, meaning that a relocated animal probably would be within the territory of another animal already in that area, Mower said.

That would lead to fights and a higher probability that a disease could be transmitted through the wounds, he said.

“It’s just not a good idea to translocate any animals. Typically, the mortality is 90 percent or more if you translocate them to another territory,” Ettestad said. “And if you drive them just 10 miles down the road, they’ll be back at your home the next night.”

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