Montezuma County coyote positive for rabies

DOW says no public health threat exists

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said Tuesday a coyote from Montezuma County has tested positive for rabies, but it’s an isolated incident that is not a public health threat.

A property owner in McElmo Canyon, southwest of Cortez, called the Colorado Division of Wildlife last week after the coyote tried to enter an enclosure with dogs and showed no fear of humans. He noticed the coyote was acting strangely and being aggressive, said DOW spokesman Joe Lewandowski. Those were signs of a problem because coyotes “run away if you threaten them even a little bit,” he said.

The property owner shot the coyote after DOW officers told him to do so. The animal was then sent to a state health laboratory. The test results were released Nov. 17.

Lewandowski said the test showed the coyote contracted rabies after having some kind of contact with a rabid bat. The coyote did not have any contact with humans or domesticated animals.

“We believe this is an isolated incident. There is no danger to humans,” he said.

Still, Lewandowski warns people to avoid approaching animals that are sick or acting strangely.

“This is a good time to remind people to keep their pets’ rabies vaccinations up to date and to keep pets from coming into contact with wildlife,” state health veterinarian Elisabeth Lawaczeck said in the statement.

Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals, resulting in a fatal disease. Rabies is spread from the bite of a rabid animal or contact with its saliva.

Signs of rabies in animals include abnormal behavior – bats on the ground, nocturnal animals out and about during the day and wild animals approaching humans.

The statement said that in 2010 the state health department and the Colorado State University diagnostics laboratories have confirmed 138 cases of rabies in animals. The count included 64 bats, 62 skunks, seven foxes, one each of a coyote, domestic cat, horse, mule deer and muskrat.

Information about rabies, sponsored by the state health department, is available at (877) 462-2911.