Rabies Vector Species
If you have found an orphaned, sick or injured raccoon, woodchuck, skunk (Caution: can spray), or bat, DO NOT touch this animal with your bare hands. All of these species are considered to be rabies vector species, which means that they are the most common wildlife species in Massachusetts that transmit rabies to other animals or people. Rabies is a viral disease that is usually spread through the affected animal’s saliva and enters another animal or person through a break in the skin or contact with the eyes, nose or mouth. From there, it spreads to the nervous system and, in almost 100% of cases, leads to eventual death. If you find an injured or sick raccoon, woodchuck, skunk, or bat, you should call one of the following numbers for assistance:
- Your local Massachusetts Animal Control Officers
- A wildlife rehabilitator near you
- Other professionals
Circumstances that are NOT safe include sick or injured juvenile or adult raccoons, woodchucks, skunks or bats that:
- are still alert to your presence
- can readily move around
- and/or are located in an area that is unsafe for rescue, e.g. in the middle of the road.
While the rabies virus is usually spread through a scratch or bite wound, any bare-handed contact that you have with a rabies-vector species is considered potential exposure. The only way to test if an animal has rabies is through testing of brain tissue. Therefore, if you have any bare-handed contact or are scratched or bitten by a rabies-vector species, that wild animal will have to be euthanized for rabies testing.