Be Aware of Displaced Wildlife Due to Flooding

BROOKINGS, S.D. - Pet and livestock owners living in areas surrounding rising water, such as the Missouri and other rivers in South Dakota, should keep in mind that rising water may displace wildlife species and create situations in which they are more likely to come in contact with domestic animals or people, says SDSU Extension Veterinarian, Russ Daly.

"Animals such as skunks, raccoons, opossum, coyotes, and deer are just a few of the species of animals that have the potential to enter areas they normally would not inhabit due to the impact of rising water on their natural habitat. As such, this increases the chances for pets or livestock to encounter these animals," Daly said.

In most cases, these encounters will not pose serious threats to the health of these domestic animals or their owners, Daly shares a list of precautions that should be considered in order to protect animal and human health:

· Ensure pets such as dogs and cats are current on rabies and other vaccinations. While high water levels do not by themselves increase the chance that wild animals such as skunks will be carriers of rabies, the displacement caused by high water means that pets may be more likely to encounter these animals, some of which may have the potential to transmit rabies. Rabies vaccination for dogs and cats is widely available through veterinarians and is highly effective. Current recommendations state that if a non-vaccinated dog or cat is bitten or scratched by a wild animal that is not able to be captured for rabies testing, the dog or cat should be euthanized. Current rabies vaccination will avoid this situation.

· Control ticks and fleas on pets. Certain diseases such as tularemia and plague can be passed from wild animals such as rabbits, prairie dogs and ground squirrels to pets through fleas and ticks. These same insects also have the potential to spread these diseases to people. Several effective methods are available for pet owners to prevent flea and tick infestations. Your local veterinarian is the best resource to use in choosing the most appropriate product.

· Don't handle wildlife. Displaced wild animals, especially young animals, appear vulnerable and in need of assistance. However, attempts to aid such animals are rarely successful, and often result in people becoming bitten or otherwise injured. In general, wild animals should be left alone and not fed. For guidance in specific situations, especially where wild animals pose threats to people, pets, or livestock, consult local animal control or South Dakota Game Fish and Parks personnel.

· Observe livestock closely in the weeks to come. Certain diseases of livestock, such as rabies, which may be transmitted by wildlife, may first appear with very subtle or unusual signs. Cattle may vocalize abnormally and salivate excessively, while horses may act dull or tired with subtle changes in behavior. Contact your veterinarian immediately if any of these signs are noted in your livestock. Information specifically regarding rabies can be found in the SDSU Extension Extra "Rabies in South Dakota: Animal and Human Aspects" available at