Why We Vaccinate Wildlife
By ame vanorio © 2016
All of the wildlife that comes through our wildlife rehabilitation center is vaccinated (thanks to Dr. Glaza), dewormed, and treated for parasites. We do this to protect all the animals in our care, ourselves, and our domestic animals. Zoonotic diseases are a public health concern that affects everyone. Vaccination of wildlife in rehabilitation centers as well vaccination programs aimed towards wildlife in public parks and urban areas has helped to reduce the occurrence of many zoonotic diseases.
Zoonotic diseases are those diseases that can be passed from animals to humans. Rabies, Salmonella, Leptospirosis, and Bubonic Plague are a few examples. These diseases come in the form of bacteria, parasites, and viruses.
Vaccines are a humane response to disease as they keep the animal from suffering and increase their quality of life. Vaccines have proven to be a way to manage and control many zoonotic diseases. In the US death from rabies has dropped considerably. In 2014, 6033 animals (10 in Kentucky) were infected and only one human death occurred from the incurable virus. Yet according to the World Health Organization rabies kills 55,000 persons, mostly children, each year in countries where animals are not vaccinated.
Vaccination of wildlife can also assist in keeping our domestic livestock safe and healthy. The occurrence of rabies has actually increased in cattle. The Center for Disease Control reported 78 rabid cattle were identified in 2014. Cattle may come into contact with wildlife around ground feeding areas where wildlife is attracted to a free meal. One suggestion is to feed grain above the ground in metal containers to reduce wildlife interactions.
Endangered animals have been saved by populations receiving immunizations. The Black-Footed Ferret is an example of an endangered species that recovered successfully in part due to a vaccination program. The Black-Footed Ferret was susceptible to a variety of plague they got from eating prairie dogs and distemper and the population was close to extinction. A controlled breeding program and vaccination regimens allowed the successful reintroduction of thousands of healthy ferrets in native prairie ecosystems.
Everyone interacts with wildlife. You may always spot them but the wildlife life is in your yard, your barn, and roaming your community. Your dog may encounter a raccoon on their morning jaunt or deer may have spent the night munching on your roses. An opossum may be eating a dead bird in your yard. Vaccinating wildlife is just one component of managing a healthy population and practicing good public health.
Ame Vanorio is the founder/director of Fox Run Environmental Education Center in Falmouth, Ky. We teach environmental education programs and serve as a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center. Call us with wildlife emergencies at 859-242-1037.