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The Ocean City Police Department, in coordination with Worcester County Health Department and Maryland Department of Natural Resources, would like to alert citizens of a public safety concern regarding the recent increase in reports of aggressive animals in the north Ocean City area. Citizens are strongly urged to report any suspicious animals that are susceptible to rabies to Ocean City police at 410-723-6600.
Any mammal can become infected with rabies. Wild animals that are most susceptible to rabies are bats, raccoons, foxes, skunks, groundhogs, feral cats, opossums, and muskrats. Rabid wild animals may display unusual behavior such as wandering in the daytime when it is usually only seen at night or approaching humans or pets. Cats are the most common domestic animal to become infected with rabies, especially those kept outdoors and unvaccinated.
Since June 18, when a confirmed rabid raccoon found in the area of 125th street attacked one individual and became aggressive with two others, the Worcester County Health Department has continued to receive reports of aggressive raccoons, including raccoons approaching or attacking people and pets in north Ocean City, in areas between 85th Street to approximately 130th Street.
Citizens should immediately report any wildlife acting suspiciously to Ocean City police, specifically those animals that are showing aggressive or threatening behavior. Signs that an animal may be rabid include but are not limited to; fearfulness, aggression, excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, staggering, and seizures. Rabid animals that typically roam at night may be seen wandering in the daytime. An immediate report of such unusual behavior will allow a quick response to the scene in order to minimize risk to human health.
The health department offers the following tips to minimize risk of rabies exposure to your family and pets:
- Vaccinate pets and keep those vaccinations current. Maryland law requires vaccination against rabies for all dogs, cats and ferrets over 4 months of age. Rabies vaccinations (shots) have limited time of protection, so citizens should verify that their pets are CURRENTLY protected.
- Do not feed pets outdoors. Pet food, even the odor of it, in empty containers and on the ground draws wildlife. While looking for food is normal behavior for raccoons and foxes, particularly in the spring when there are young to be fed, these animals may return to areas they frequent if they become rabid.
- Secure trash cans and dumpster lids for the same reason outlined above. Wild animals forage for food and minimizing food sources will discourage wildlife from coming to your property.
- Remove strays from the community. Stray cats are of particular concern, as they are competing for food with wildlife and have more opportunity for exposure to rabid wildlife, such as raccoons. Many of the fights with raccoons go unwitnessed, and are only noted after the cat becomes rabid. Cats are the most frequently identified rabid domestic animal.
Citizens are also advised to never feed or come in close contact with wild animals. Wild animals naturally avoid human contact. Any wild animal that does approach people or pets should be considered suspicious and reported to Ocean City police at 410-723-6600.
For more information about rabies, visit http://www.worcesterhealth.org/.
For more information about how the rabies virus affects humans, visit http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/719097 to view a video from the CDC.
If you experience wild animals on your property that are not displaying any unusual behavior and are simply becoming a nuisance, you can contact a local wildlife control operator listed at this link: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Plants_Wildlife/nw.asp.