A fox was found behaving abnormally, and the St. Louis County Undersheriff was able to walk right up to him and pick him up. He seemed very lethargic, and we were not certain of what we were dealing with, at first. Was he stunned from being hit by a car? However, then he began doing this, and we knew he had distemper.
This is one of the behaviors we may see in distempered foxes when they are not quite in the full-blown, whole-body seizure stage. They can have this focal mouth activity that makes it look like they are chewing gum. From what we’ve read and learned, this is thought to be very specific to (uniquely seen) in distemper. The next stage would have been full-blown, whole-body seizures. This fox was immediately euthanized.
We are posting this today because we are getting in yet another fox with distemper; this one is in full-blown seizures. We may be on the cusp of a distemper outbreak, and we want you to know what to look for, what to do, and who to call.
First, please know that distemper is always out there, and that it is a very bad disease for foxes, coyotes, wolves, raccoons… and domestic dogs.
We humans cannot catch distemper, but our dogs can if they are not vaccinated against it. It is very contagious, and very hard to treat. And if your dog survives it, they will never be quite the same. So please keep your pets up to date on their vaccinations.
So what should you look for and what should you do? If you see a fox in Duluth city limits displaying unusual behavior (lethargic, circling, seeming to be blind, or having seizures), call someone.
If you’re in Duluth and you see this during business hours, call Duluth Animal Control at 218-723-3259. After hours and on weekends, call us at 218-491-3604. We answer the phone between 8am and 9:30pm.
If you are in Superior and it is during business hours, call the Superior Animal Control officer at 715-395-7280. After hours, call 911.
If you are outside the Duluth city limits, call State Patrol dispatch at 218-723-4886, and ask for the Conservation officer on-call. If you are in Hermantown or Proctor or another city, call police or a Conservation Officer.
So far, our cases have all come from West Duluth and Proctor, and they have all been sub-adult grey foxes.
Distemper is more common, but rabies is out there, too. Both distemper and rabies can result in unusual behavior in affected animals. Though humans do not get distemper, we can get rabies, and it’s almost always fatal for us once it becomes symptomatic.
If you are bitten by a rabies-vector species (fox, coyote, wolf, skunk, raccoon, bat, or feral cat), that animal must be euthanized and sent for testing so that you can receive post-bite vaccines if the animal tests positive for rabies.
Both distemper and rabies can cause neurological symptoms, so never assume what you’re seeing is “only” distemper and that you can safely handle that sick animal. It could be rabies. If you decide to handle a wild animal in trouble, please wear long sleeves and thick leather gloves.
If you are bitten by a rabies-vector species (fox, coyote, skunk, raccoon, or bat), we will have to euthanize the animal and send it for rabies testing, even if we suspect it isn’t rabid. So please, with rabies vector species, for your sake and for theirs, be especially careful.
Read more about distemper here: http://bit.ly/16fjgRu
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