Progress and the drought may be major factors in a spike in rabies and distemper cases seen in some parts of Denton County.
Brian Hall, who is the contracted animal control officer for 10 communities including Argyle, Bartonville, Copper Canyon and Northlake, said he’s seen a big uptick this summer.
"I've seen twice the number of skunks and raccoons exhibiting rabies or distemper type symptoms," said Hall. "Just this morning, I had a skunk call here in Argyle of a skunk that was seen hobbling around, falling down, very lethargic."
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Hall said an uptick like this isn’t unheard of every few years as wild animal populations take on extra stress in certain locations.
In this case he said a combination of things are likely contributing, including the drought and climate, but he believes the main cause is likely growth in these smaller communities near the edge of the Metroplex.
“Due to man's progress as we take over lands and push these animals into smaller areas,” he said.
He said those high-stress levels will lower the immune systems of animals, making them more susceptible to illness which is often nature’s way of balancing the population.
Rabies can affect people or pets that come in contact with an infected animal while distemper is a threat to pets alone and can be contracted simply through saliva or waste from the wild animal.
Hall said the best way to protect is to vaccinate your dogs and cats yearly with a booster shot.
He also recommended common sense solutions like bringing pet foods and garbage in at night or covering it to give the raccoons and skunks less of a reason to come around.
Theresa Eversole, who helps run the American Pet Spa and Resort in Argyle, said they employ an extensive fencing system to keep wild animals out and will often use peppermint oil to keep skunks away.
"You've really got to watch them because rabies is a bad thing,” said Eversole, who has a dog of her own, as well.
Hall said the main threat to watch for is skunks and raccoons wandering during the daytime.
As nocturnal animals, they only come out during the day rarely and are usually in a hurry to get to cover, so he said one that’s not moving with a purpose in the daytime or that seems to be hobbling around and disoriented is usually a sign of illness.
If you come across that situation, contact your local animal control officer right away to take care of the problem.