A moose that was acting aggressively toward people has been diagnosed with rabies, a first for Alaska, according to wildlife officials.
The moose, which was “stumbling, drooling profusely, and had bare patches of skin,” was found acting oddly in Teller on June 2, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said in a June 7 news release.
“That moose was being aggressive towards people and charging and getting a little bit too close to comfort for them,” Alaska Wildlife Biologist Sara Germain told KTUU-TV.
Before the moose’s carcass was burned, wildlife officials said they collected samples for testing, which showed “rabies virus in the brain.”
Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the virus in the moose was infected with was “an Arctic Fox rabies variant,” officials said. The variant stems from a winter rabies outbreak in Nome/Seward Peninsula and North Slope arctic foxes.
Wildlife officials said this suggests the moose contracted the disease from a fox.
“Due to the largely solitary nature of moose, it is very unlikely that any rabies outbreak will occur in the moose population, but isolated cases such as this one occur rarely,” officials said.
While rabies in moose is rare, some of the massive animals have been “diagnosed with rabies in South Dakota, Minnesota, Canada and Russia,” officials said.
The department said as a result of this rabies case that it plans to test “all brain samples from wild mammals found dead or euthanized from regions” known to have fox rabies, to better track the disease.
The public can help by calling the department if they find a dead animal or see any that with signs of rabies, which includes “excessive salivation, abnormal / aggressive behavior, bite marks,” officials said.
Though photos and videos can be helpful, it’s important to avoid contact “with a rabid animal or carcass,” officials said.
Rabies vaccines for dogs and cats is the best protection against the disease in people, according to officials.
“Likewise, preventing pets from interacting with foxes or other wildlife, and not leaving garbage or other attractants accessible to foxes and other wildlife, remain important,” the department said.
If someone is bitten by an animal that may have been exposed to rabies, “immediately wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical attention,” officials said.