First rabid moose reported in Alaska has been confirmed by Alaska Department of Fish and Game

The first moose to be diagnosed with rabies in Alaska was confirmed Monday by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 6:08 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The first moose to be diagnosed with rabies in Alaska was confirmed Monday by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. (ADFG).

A single, rabid moose, was reported to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game after it was seen foaming at the mouth while wondering through the community of Teller in Western Alaska and acting aggressively toward people.

Alaska Wildlife Biologist Sara Germain, who specializes in wildlife in the Nome area, said Fish and Game received reports on June 2 of a moose acting strangely around Teller with injuries on its side.

The moose was put down by department officials.

“That moose was being aggressive towards people and charging and getting a little bit too close to comfort for them,” Germain said. “So because those are all signs of rabies, we decided to dispatch the animal and take the head and some other samples to try and see what was wrong with it.”

Dr. Kimberlee Beckmen, ADFG wildlife vet said, We tested it for rabies right away, which we don’t normally do in moose, but because of that neurological signs and rabies was one of the rule outs. It came back positive.”

According to a press release, on June 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) confirmed the moose tested positive for rabies

Fish and Game coordinated with the City of Teller and burned the carcass.

Alaska State Veterinarian Bob Gerlach and Alaska Wildlife Veterinarian Kimberlee Beckmen both said the moose was most likely bitten by a rabid fox, as a wound that could’ve come from a fox bite was noticed on its chest. The moose also was confirmed to have a red fox variant of rabies, as confirmed by the CDC.

While this was the first moose to be diagnosed with rabies in Alaska, there have been previous occurrences in South Dakota, Minnesota, Canada, and Russia.

“With moose being so isolated and being solitary, in a solitary group this time of year, it would be very unlikely that you’d have an outbreak in that species,” said Gerlach.

Even though the risk is low for a rabies outbreak in the moose population in Alaska, it doesn’t hurt to be cautious.

Gerlach added, “if you do see something abnormal, report it and make sure that you can do as much as we can, or as you can to go ahead and reduce the risk that your pets or your family may be exposed to the virus.”

ADFG says that in response to this incident, it will begin to start testing brain samples from all wild mammals that are euthanized or found dead in regions of Alaska that are endemic with fox rabies.

State officials say one of the best ways to protect yourself against rabies is to vaccinate your dogs and other pets, as they are more likely to interact with an infected animal. Also, try to prevent pets from interacting with foxes or other wildlife, and don’t leave garbage or other attractants accessible to them.

Fish and Game also advises wearing protective gloves, washing hands and equipment after handling wild game, and cooking wild game to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

The department asks that if someone does encounter a wild animal exhibiting signs of rabies, or carcasses of wild animals, they contact the state so that they may test for rabies.