The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division) issued a letter on August 29, 2013, to all Alabama Wildlife Rescue Centers and licensed Alabama wildlife rehabilitators. The letter states that due to a policy change, they will not be allowed to rehabilitate any fur bearing animals including orphaned/injured baby bats, skunks, opossums, foxes, coyotes, feral pigs and raccoons. Furthermore they are to be turned over to specified locations for euthanization.
The original concern was for what is believed to be an overpopulation of raccoons in the state and the threat from rabies and other diseases which raccoons "can" carry as can ANY mammal. The small number of these animals that are orphaned each year, rehabilitated and returned into the wild is not significant enough to be causing an overpopulation.
Statistics gathered by the Alabama Department of Health for 2013 shows the number of documented cases of raccoon rabies is eleven. THERE HAVE BEEN NO DOCUMENTED CASES OF HUMAN INFECTION SINCE 1994.
Statistics gathered by ADOH from 1950-2012 show an average of 29 cases of raccoon rabies per year while the same time span shows dogs to be the highest with an average of 47 cases per year. Clearly dogs have been more of a threat then raccoons. These numbers are for the whole state of Alabama.
RABIES IS NOT AIRBORNE. We do not need to be killing perfectly healthy animals who are zero risk to anyone. Any mammal can get rabies if they are bitten by an infected animal. There are documented cases of cows and horses having rabies. Raccoons are not born with rabies, they can only get rabies by being bitten by an infected animal. So what this amounts to is a war on orphaned/injured baby bats, skunks, opossums, foxes, coyotes, feral pigs and raccoons.
There is no way to test for rabies without killing the animal and necropsy of the brain. Millions are tested every year and only a tiny percentage are ever positive.
As far as the concern for "public safety": People will always be finding orphaned wildlife and will need a place to turn them in for rehabilitation. With this new policy, do they really think people will turn babies in to be killed? NO, this will only drive rescuing and rehabilitation underground and make it much more difficult for the public to find someone to help therefore causing the animals to be raised by well intentioned people who have no idea what they are doing. By doing this they will be putting many more people and domestic animals in potential contact with the diseases they are so worried about. Please urge Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to rescind this policy.
People HAVE always and WILL always try to help the helpless, especially little animals. How do you explain to children that all Fish & Game will do with a wild baby is kill it? What kind of message does that send? Please do not tie the hands of the trained proffessional rehabilitators and wildlife centers. They are the buffer zone between our wild life and the general public.
There is absolutely no cost to the state of Alabama nor to the taxpayers to allow the continued rehabilitation of these orphaned babies. All rehabilitators and wildlife centers are funded through donations and out of the personal pockets of the rehabilitators...a true labor of love. By what authority can any government agency, established to protect our resources, go against the very wellbeing that has been entrusted to them to protect.