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Which animals are most likely to have rabies?

The incidence of rabies among domestic animals in Illinois is increasingly low thanks to the prevalence of vaccination for pets. As a result of such initiatives, 90% of all reported rabies cases in North America involve wildlife. It may be helpful for you to know which species are most likely to carry rabies. This way, you can better protect yourself, your family and your pets. 

According to the Humane Society of the United States, any warm-blooded mammal, including human beings, pets like cats and dogs and animals found in the wild, have the potential to contract rabies. However, some species are more susceptible to infection, while others exhibit a degree of resistance to the disease.

Generally speaking, rabies tends to occur more often in certain species in particular areas of the continent. Bats are an exception to this rule. Identification of infected specimens has occurred in widely scattered areas.

The following is a list of the primary North American rabies carriers and the areas where the disease is most prevalent among the population: 

  • Coyotes: southern Texas
  • Foxes: parts of Texas and Arizona, eastern United States, western Alaska
  • Skunks: north and south-central states, and occasionally in the east
  • Raccoons: eastern United States

However, if you encounter one of these species outside the area where rabies infection is prevalent, it does not mean that it is safe to approach the animal, especially if it is behaving strangely. 

Some animals are resistant to rabies infection. Opossums are an interesting example. Their defense mechanism to escape predators includes swaying, hissing and drooling. You may observe these behaviors and assume that the opossum is rabid. In reality, however, rabies infection among opossums is almost unheard of. Other species that are resistant to rabies include rabbits and rodents. 

However, even species that are resistant to rabies have the potential to carry other diseases that can harm humans and domestic animals. It is best for you to observe wild animals only from a distance and prevent your pets from interacting with them.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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