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Wildlife young are NOT pets! 

July 31, 2010

RABIES is an infectious disease of the brain which can occur in all warm-blooded animals including mankind. The specific virus of this disease is easily spread through the saliva of the infected animal. A bite is usually how the disease is spread but not necessarily. Contact with the saliva may be enough to cause alarm by medical officials.

In the wake of this incident, Iowa public health officials issued a warning: wildlife young are not to be collected, handled or assumed to be innocent little critters for people to take home as "pets." What better case could one use as an example of unintended consequences for a taking of wildlife that was an illegal act to begin with? Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, Iowa Department of public Health medical director stated "This is a classic example of a good-hearted person trying to help a wild creature. Unfortunately, even the cutest of wild animals can carry a variety of diseases that are harmful to humans and other animals. In Iowa, skunks are a reservoir for the rabies virus and all Iowa skunks should be considered potentially rabid."

State Conservation Officers are constantly, year after year after year in every state in the entire USA, pleading with people to observe wildlife from a distance. Taking wildlife of any species home because you think it will make a unique nice pet is (1) illegal in the first place and (2) a great disservice to the animal by removing it from its natural environment where it stands an excellent chance of surviving on its own. Misguided attempts by people who want to intervene for the supposed good of wildlife cause unnecessary problems. They need to educate themselves before they act. The full range of biological needs of wild animals can seldom be duplicated by mankind in the living room of one's home.

Article Photos

Skunks may look cute when they are little. And they may be cute enough for some people to let their emotions overrule common sense. Such was the case last week when Iowa made national news related to a baby skunk brought home as a “pet”.  The skunk, unknown to the members of the household, was already infected with rabies. Its sickness progressed. A veterinarian had the animal tested and it was confirmed....RABIES. Now the entire family, all visitors and 20 other family members, and the family dog are getting treatment or assessments for the disease. Today’s photo is a taxidermist’s mount of an adult striped skunk, a very common animal in Iowa.

This scribe has said it before and I'll say it again. If you want a pet, buy a puppy or a kitten. These animals can show true affection back to the humans in charge of its care. I've seen and heard of a vast array of animals that some people call 'pets' that have no capability or interest in people at all. It is a one way street strictly for the ego of the human.

Dogs and cats have a long history of association with man. Particularly for dogs, they can be trained to assist the hunter to retrieve birds, to assist law enforcement to sniff out drugs or other contraband, help guide blind people around the city, or just to be a friend and companion in the home.

In this case, the skunk was most likely infected before it was brought into the home. Since the skunk was rabid, all five members of the family are receiving the rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin. Approximately 20 other family members and friends who came in contact with the skunk are being assessed for exposure. At least six others are receiving rabies shots. And the family dog, which was not vaccinated for rabies, will have to be placed in 6 month quarantine to determine if it was infected. The other choice for the family dog is euthanization. All of these measures are needed and drastic and for good reason. Rabies can and will kill. Surviving this disease without treatment is not on the scale of probability.


CONSERVATION LAW ENFORCEMENT offers unique situations that blend into many other criminal activities. For instance, in Indiana recently, game wardens and State Police and the County Sheriff cooperated in a warrant service. In addition to 30 illegal raccoon hides, they found 600 marijuana plants and 450 pounds of dried weed. The street value of the plant material was estimated at $3.6 million!

Another example in southern Missouri was a sting operation in which an undercover law enforcement agent posed as a taxidermist. He took in critters from area bad guys and in the end, 68 people will now face 425 wildlife violations for illegal activity. It was other legal hunters and sportsmen that called in the initial tips that led to the sting operation being set up.

And lastly on today's list of bad guys, a Tennessee man will now spend time in jail for two years. His list of violations is long. Past convictions of illegal possession of wildlife, hunting without license, failure to tag game animals, illegal transportation etc have earned him a well deserved reputation on the game warden's watch list. While fishing in Georgia with a fraudulent license, he was arrested again. The judge reviewed the evidence and decided that time behind bars was indeed appropriate for this individual. Hurray for the judge.

Tennessee is one of 34 states signed onto a Wildlife Violator's Compact. The Compact concept began in 1989 with Colorado, Nevada and Oregon. Now information is shared between 34 states for those relatively few folks who disregard conservation laws during the conduct of their illegal activities. Iowa is one of the 34 states in the wildlife compact agreement.


The theme for the Aug. 4 Preschool Story Hour at the GrimesFarm and Conservation Center is "Wonderful Woodlands". This program for preschoolers and their adult(s) is held the first and third Wednesday of each month from 10 to 11 a.m. After the stories, weather permitting, a tractor drawn hayrack will provide transportation to the Observation Tower for a view of the countryside.


For your funny bone: If a parsley farmer is sued, can they garnish his wages?


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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