We have been and still are going through the COVID-19 pandemic and it has been serious for many people, but wildlife has its diseases too. One that has been around for a long, long time is rabies, which is caused by a virus. Infected animals have the virus in their saliva. The virus enters the body through broken skin (a bite) or the eyes, nose or mouth, and travels through the nervous system to the brain. There it multiplies and causes inflammation and damage and eventually death.

Rabies is found mostly in wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes, but domestic animals and humans can be infected. All dogs should get the rabies vaccine, as should any other domestic animals that spend time outdoors and could come in contact with a rabid animal.

The period between infection and the first symptoms (the incubation period) is typically one to three months in humans. However, this period may be as brief as four days, or longer than six years, depending on the location and severity of the wound and the amount of virus introduced. Initial symptoms of rabies are often fever and headache but as the virus progresses it causes inflammation of the brain, which can lead to slight or partial paralysis, anxiety, insomnia, confusion, agitation, abnormal behavior, terror, paranoia and hallucinations.

In the later stages of infection, the individual has difficulty swallowing, shows panic when presented with liquids, and cannot quench his thirst. Since the individual cannot swallow saliva or water, the virus is much more likely to be transmitted by biting.

Rabies vaccines are usually successful in preventing infection, but people must seek treatment immediately if they think they have had contact with a rabid animal, and not wait for any symptoms.

Raccoon are great carriers of rabies as they are social animals that often den together and thus are more likely to spread the disease. They have also become quite plentiful in recent years because few trappers or hunters go after them any more; fur prices have dropped dramatically. For those of you who do not like the thought of hunting or trapping, here is a good case where these activities provide control of wildlife management problems. I have seen more dead raccoons on the roads this year than ever before, and many traveling during daylight hours, which is abnormal.

The state has a program in which baits that carry the rabies vaccine are air-dropped or placed outdoors in the hope that wildlife will be vaccinated. I have my doubts about how effective that is. Your best bet to avoid this virus is to make sure your pets are vaccinated and under control and to avoid close contact with any wild animal.

Another disease that is fatal to wild animals and dogs is canine distemper. This too is a virus that is highly contagious and attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems. This one is not transferred to humans and there are vaccines for our dogs. Canine distemper is often incurable, and fatal, to those animals that contract it. The same advice for avoiding rabies applies to distemper: get your pets vaccinated and avoid contact with wild animals. “Friendly” wildlife is not safe, not even that cute little raccoon.

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As I travel around the countryside exercising my camera I can’t help noticing the many American flags hanging in folks’ yards, and they make me happy and proud. A friend of mine has a huge American flag hanging near his place on a 130-foot pole. You can’t miss it from any direction on Route 104 in the Town of Murray. It excites me every time I spot it off in the distance. I fly a flag in front of my place, too, 24/7 with a light. I’m a veteran of Vietnam and fully understand the meaning of the American flag, as do all veterans. We risked our lives for the freedoms that it represents.

I recently started a project to see how many of our federal, state, county and even town and city buildings fly the American flag 24/7. So far it seems that all do, but I think there are a few that don’t. I need your help to find those that don’t — let me know who and where.

I’ll start off the list with the one I do know about: Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, a federal building on Casey Road in the Town of Alabama, does not fly the American flag 24/7. When I asked about that I was told they only fly it when headquarters is open — eight hours a day and not on weekends. This seems to be a local management decision, for when I visited the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge this past spring, the American flag was flying 24/7 even though the headquarters was closed due to the Covid pandemic.

So if you know of any other government buildings not flying our flag 24/7, give me a jingle.

Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at 585-798-4022 or woodduck2020@yahoo.com.

Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at 585-798-4022 or woodduck2020@yahoo.com.

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