Rhode Island’s Block Island deer population part of Yale professor’s Lyme Disease study; and Rabies reports from Georgia, South Dakota, and Texas. Canada: Wildlife Rehabilitation controversy in Alberta. Travel Warnings for Paraguay. Announcement of Lyme Disease Forums in Virginia (2).

Rhode Island 03/12/11 blockislandtimes.com:  The deer hunting season is over, but the Block Island deer population remained a target last week, though for a far different type of hunter. Flying 1,000 feet above the island wildlife biologist Susan Bernatas trained her sights on deer, capturing images with a “forward-look infrared” (FLIR) camera in an effort to produce as accurate a deer count as possible.  Bernatas, the president and founder of Vision Air

Dr. Durland Fish, Dept. of Epidemiology & Public Health, Yale School of Medicine.

Research, was on island last week performing the census for Yale professor Dr. Durland Fish, who is studying the deer population and Lyme disease on the island.  Bernatas took three surveys of the entire island using both the FLIR and traditional digital video equipment mounted on a Cessna 206. She observes the video feeds as the plane flies, picking out deer by their heat signatures. Later Bernatas will go back and review all three flyovers to fine-tune her count.  “You can tell what type of animal it is by the morphology and the signature. For example, with white tail deer the head looks detached from their bodies,” Bernatas said. “It’s like playing a video game all night long.”  Bernatas has been all over the country counting many different types of animals over a total of two million acres. She began by studying Big Horn Sheep, but has counted everything from elephants to elk with her FLIR method. She says that the process is extremely accurate but also takes practice to use properly.  “I have been doing this for 10 years and it’s very easy for me to look at the monitor and determine what is a deer,” Bernatas said. “If you aren’t used to it you would have a hard time picking the deer out.”  Bernatas praised the detail with which the camera can render images of the animals. It can detect as little as a one-degree Celsius temperature change and can show details like the ears on individual deer.   Last winter the state Department of Environmental Management performed a visual count of the island’s deer by helicopter after a snowstorm, which showed a deer density of 85 animals per square mile. According to Bernatas, FLIR has several advantages over this method.  First, the scope of the count is much more comprehensive. The DEM count only looked at a small section of the island and then extrapolated the results. By contrast, the Vision Air count covered the entire island and repeated the count three times, which should produce more accurate results.  Also, infrared makes seeing the deer much easier. According to Bernatas, the FLIR can see through brush and trees without leaves. It also shows the deer as bright white against a cool gray background making them harder to miss.  The results from the count will be ready in April, Bernatas said. She could not estimate the size of the herd based on her initial observations, nor would she say whether it seemed larger or smaller than what might be considered a normal size population.

Georgia 03/11/11 wtvm.com: by Laura Ann Sills – Ellerslie – Seeing a fox in Harris County is not rare. But, having that fox come up to you, is.  Dennis Riley and his neighbors on Scott Road called Harris County Sheriff’s deputies Thursday when a fox tried to get into a truck with a man.   “You walk up to it and it would not run like a normal fox. It just sits there,” explained Riley.  Deputies believed the animal to be rabid and killed it. That was the second time they have dealt with a possibly rabid fox in one week.  The first time was near a home on Highway 315. The residents called deputies when they noticed the fox sitting very still at their fence line for several hours.  Foxes are not usually visible during the day and are not social animals.  “They do not hang out with us. So, if you have a fox acting suspicious, please stay away,” urged Sandra Wilson from the Harris County Health Department.  She advises that you teach children that these animals are wild and should be left alone.  “We recommend, particularly living up here in the county where we know we have rabies, people keep animals vaccinated.

South Dakota 03/11/11 sd.gov: SD Department of Health – South Dakota reported 32 rabid animal cases in 2010, down from 53 the year before. Seven cases have been reported to date in 2011  Nine of those cases were domestic animals, prompting state officials to remind South Dakotans of the need to vaccinate their pets for rabies. “It’s important that people keep their pets vaccinated because rabies is always a possibility in South Dakota with the skunk population as the main reservoir of the disease,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, State Epidemiologist for the Department of Health.   The risk of rabies is statewide, with 62 counties submitting 671 animals for testing in 2010 and positives coming from 18 counties. The 23 wild animal positives included 20 skunks and three bats; the domestic animals included one dog, three cats, and five cattle. South Dakota’s last human rabies case was reported in 1970. 

Texas 03/13/11 connectamarillo.com: by Jonas Rios – Rabies is on the rise in the Panhandle and experts are advising residents to watch out for themselves and their animals.  We’ve seen one of the largest increases in cases that the area has seen in the past 10 years.  So far nine cases of rabies have been reported for the Panhandle.  An expert says even skunks and bats in our area could be carrying the disease.  “All pets, dogs and cats, should be vaccinated by law, but its common sense to get them vaccinated because it protects the family. Anyone with 4-H and F.F.A. type projects — show lambs and show calves, should be vaccinated because there is so much human contact with them,” said Dr. James Alexander, Regional Zoonosis Control Veterinarian.


Alberta  03/11/11 calgaryherald.com: by Hanneke Brooymans – Edmonton –

Bear Cubs.

The provincial government is forbidding wildlife rehabilitation groups from taking in and treating more than 20 species of animals — including cougars, bears and moose — out of concern for human safety.  Those who rehabilitate animals say this is misguided thinking that forces them to act against their mission and puts the public in more danger.  The new rules are still a work in progress, but Alberta Sustainable Resource Development hopes to have overall standards finalized this year, said spokesman Darcy Whiteside.

Northern Leopard Frog

Last summer, the seven wildlife centres that take in injured wildlife received amended permits that said they would have to euthanize any bat, skunk, deer mouse, raccoon, toad, salamander or frog (other than the threatened leopard frog) they received. Under no circumstances will wolf, coyote, bear, lynx, bobcat or cougar be rehabilitated, the permits said. The same applied to moose, elk, caribou, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and bison.  “We are always looking at improving standards to address the safety of both wildlife and the public,” Whiteside said. “The changes were made to make it safer for the wildlife, the workers at the facility, and the general public.”

Wildlife centre staff handling animals such as bats and skunks face a danger of rabies, Whiteside said, and deer mice could carry hantavirus. For the larger animals, there’s a worry they could lose their fear of humans and pose a safety risk, he added. While they don’t have an example in Alberta of a rehabilitated animal injuring humans, Whiteside said. “I know there are examples in other jurisdictions of human-conditioned animals that have caused injury.”

Injured moose

Kim Blomme, president of the Alberta Wildlife Rehabilitators’ Association, said they don’t agree with the decisions. Wildlife centre staff are vaccinated against rabies, so they’re much better suited to treat the animal than a concerned member of the public might be. If they tell someone they have to euthanize a bat if it’s brought to them, the concerned person might try to treat the bat themselves, creating a greater risk.  Staff are also trained to follow protocols that limit how much an animal sees of people to prevent habituation.

She said they have provided the ministry with information from rehabilitation centres all over the United States and in other parts of Canada where larger animals are allowed to be treated.  “There have never been any recorded incidents of rehabilitated animals like that creating an issue,” she said. Certainly Fish and Wildlife officers “get calls about nuisance bears. But those aren’t animals that have been rehabilitated and acclimatized to people. They’re just habituated. And that can happen anywhere where there are garbage and bears and lots of people.”

Mountain lion

In their meetings with the ministry they’ve gone discussed these issues over and over again, but it’s like hitting a brick wall, she said.  The ministry says the association has been consulted, but Blomme said they didn’t incorporate any of their input. And they’ve been worried about what might happen if they kick up a fuss.

“The problem is we do need to be permitted by SRD. So we’re concerned about (angering) them … because they could very easily just say, ‘Well, we’re not going to renew your permit this year.’ We’ve done a lot of work. We’ve got facilities and we have paid staff. We can’t afford to not have a permit. That’s never been threatened or anything, but they retain that power.”  At the same time, the centres get no funding from the government and rely on donors, Blomme said. “And so if our caller who has the bat hears from us, ‘No, we can’t take it in,’ or ‘If we take it in we have to euthanize it,’ we potentially lose a supporter. And we survive by our supporters. We have no other means of earning money.”

Baby bobcat

Lynne Nittolo, a wildlife supporter, said the public deserves to know about the excluded animals.  “I think what makes me so irate is the public funds these places. They wouldn’t donate to them if they didn’t feel there was a need for them. The government should let the public know that they’ve made a decision like that because that affects the people that donate to them.”

Travel Warnings:

Paraguay 03/13/11 plenglish.com:  Asuncion – (T) the number of deaths from dengue fever rose to nine and five more were being investigated, after 1,015 cases were confirmed out of a total of 3,549 reported.  However, Minister of Public Health and Social Welfare Esperanza Martinez ruled out declaring a state of emergency.



Forums to Discuss Lyme Disease

Virginia 03/13/11 nbc29.com: Cases of Lyme disease are on the rise nationwide, and now the National Capital Lyme Disease Association, based in DC , wants you to know more about the illness.  The organization is hosting a series of listening sessions across the commonwealth including one on Tuesday [March 15] at James Madison University in Harrisonburg. The session will run from 1:30-4 o’clock and is open to the public. Those affected by the disease will speak about their experiences.  Emily Tinsley, a registered nurse explained, “Lyme disease is very much here. Because of that, I think it’s a responsibility for all healthcare professionals to learn about it so that people can be properly diagnosed and treated.”  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Lyme disease cases in Virginia have jumped in the last

Adult deer tick

15 years, from just 55 in 1995 to nearly 1,000 in 2008.

Virginia 03/13/11 roanoke.com: Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Lyme Disease Task Force will travel to Roanoke on Tuesday to hold a hearing on the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.  Chairman Michael Farris of Purcellville hopes members of the general public will share their stories about the disease. Treatment of chronic Lyme in particular is a contentious topic, as a majority of physicians don’t believe it exists and disagree with patient advocates about the best way to treat symptoms.  Previous meetings across the state have brought together experts from both sides of the issue, and some have featured heated debate.  Newly endemic in Western Virginia, Lyme cases numbered a record 65 in the Roanoke region last year.  Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m. at Roanoke’s Stonewall Jackson Middle School. Virginia residents are invited to speak for up to five minutes.


2 responses to “Rhode Island’s Block Island deer population part of Yale professor’s Lyme Disease study; and Rabies reports from Georgia, South Dakota, and Texas. Canada: Wildlife Rehabilitation controversy in Alberta. Travel Warnings for Paraguay. Announcement of Lyme Disease Forums in Virginia (2).

  1. Dianne Fitzgerald Wyant

    Watched a fawn behave in a very strange manner in Hopkinton, RI, this afternoon; spinning and thrashing, and finally, after resting a few moments, plunged into Wincheck Pond and died. Could this young animal have been rabid? We pulled it out of the pond with a rope to avoid possible pollution. Left it in the woods covered with leaves.

    • Yes, Dianne, it’s possible that the fawn was infected with the rabies virus. You should contact the local game warden and tell him or her where you left the animal so its brain can be examined for rabies. You should also talk to your doctor to determine if you were potentially exposed to the virus through the fawn’s saliva. It could also have been Chronic Wasting Disease, which is a prion disease similar to Mad Cow Disease (CWD) which is not known to be a threat to humans though eating the meat of infected animals is not recommended.

      Thank you for visiting naturalunseenhazards.wordpress.com

      Jerry Genesio

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