Maryland temperatures are cooling down, leaves are starting to turn, and everyone is enjoying our wonderful state during the fall months. Outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, bird watching, and hunting, can result in close contact with wild animals and exposure to diseases transmitted through direct contact, by arthropod vectors, and contaminated soil and water. Anyone enjoying the Maryland great outdoors may be at an increased risk of zoonotic diseases. Outdoor enthusiasts are especially vulnerable to tick-borne diseases because of time spent in tick habitat. Preventing tick bites is the single most important step in preventing tick-borne diseases.
For information related to tick-borne disease prevention, tick identification, and proper removal of ticks, visit: https://phpa.health.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/pages/Home.aspx
In general, wildlife should be enjoyed from a distance. Wild animals can be dangerous and orphaned, sick or injured wildlife should only be dealt with by trained professionals. In situations where contact with wild animals cannot be avoided, individuals should take the necessary precautions. For example, any dead animals brought home by household pets should be handled with gloves and disposed of properly.
For questions regarding wildlife, contact a Maryland licensed wildlife rehabilitator or nuisance wildlife cooperator by consulting the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR) website: http://dnr.maryland.gov/Wildlife/Pages/plants_wildlife/wildlifeproblems.aspx or by calling the MD DNR/USDA hotline at 1-877-463-6497.
Hunters/trappers handling harvested wildlife and their tissues should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations for safety:
• Do not handle or harvest wildlife that are obviously sick or found dead.
• Field dress and prepare game outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
• Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game.
• When done handling game, wash hands thoroughly with soap or disinfectant and clean knives, equipment, and surfaces that came in contact with game.
• Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling animals.
• All game should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Avoid cross-contamination. Keep uncooked game in a separate container, away from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) Tick Identification Service: http://www.mda.state.md.us/plants-pests/Documents/tickid.pdf
Maryland Department of Health (MDH), Center for Zoonotic and Vector-borne Diseases (CZVBD) Educational Materials:
Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife & Heritage Service: http://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/default.aspx
USDA Wildlife Services: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/wildlifedamage/SA_Program_Overview