Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary always takes the potential threat of diseases and parasites seriously.
Staff at Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary always wear gloves and aprons when handling orphaned raccoons.
Janalene Kingshott photo
At our site, staff and volunteers are very careful to wear gloves, use disinfectants and avoid contact with animals in our care. We’re also very careful to question people who bring an animal in: Did they touch the animal? If it’s a rabies vector species (a species highly likely to carry rabies) were they bitten? Was it in contact with a family cat or dog?
While there’s no reason to fear the wildlife around us, there are numerous reasons to respect the fact that they can often carry diseases and parasites – some of which would ultimately kill their host and could cause serious illness or death for people.
There are many common diseases – parvovirus, distemper – that Aspen works hard to keep at bay to protect the other animals in our care. We have foot basins staff step into before entering enclosures, and inoculations for many of the animals as they arrive. That’s why it’s also important to have the vaccinations of your dogs and cats up to date, because their encounters with animals – particularly for outdoor pets – are often beyond your control.
But people must take every precaution as well, and at Aspen we take all measures to avoid risk for staff and volunteers.
All employees receive a series of vaccines for rabies. There’s a list of other diseases we must also protect ourselves from. They include West Nile, lyme disease, Hantavirus and, believe it or not, even the Bubonic plague, to name a few.
Aspen urges anyone who is picking up a wild animal not to touch it. If you have to handle it, use gloves. For a larger animal that might bite, it’s best to call Aspen, where we have the tools and expertise to collect them.
Even if the animal is gone, spring cleaning can uncover deadly bacteria, like the Hantavirus found in mouse and bat droppings.
People also underestimate how deadly a parasite carried by some wild animals can be. Raccoon roundworm won’t kill its coon host, but the worm, in humans and other animals, can cause severe and sometimes deadly neurological disorders. Raccoons of any size should always be handled with gloves, followed by disinfecting. At Aspen, staff and volunteers handle raccoons with great caution, avoid eating anywhere near their nursery or enclosure, and respect that although they may appear cute and harmless, we must remember the parasites they carry can prove dangerous.
So remember, if you really need to handle distressed wildlife, take a moment to take the steps that will protect you, your family members and your pets from dangerous diseases and parasites.
(These weekly articles are contributed by staff at the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife with a mandate to educate the public towards a better understanding of local fauna.)