Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics



Date of this Version

May 2004


Published by GOVERNMENT OF NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR, Department of Natural Resources. http://www.gov.nl.ca/agric/


Rabies is a deadly viral disease of the brain spread by the bite of infected mammals. It is most commonly seen in red or arctic foxes in this province though other wild animals such as bats may carry the disease. Sick foxes can bite other foxes, dogs, cats, wolves, caribou, other animals and people and make them sick. Once bitten by an animal with rabies it can take from two weeks to six months before the animal shows signs of the disease. Though uncommon, this period can be as short as 4 days or as long as a year or more. Once the signs appear the animal is usually dead within 10 days.
The signs of rabies include a change in behavior such as from friendly to aggressive, or from cautious to fearless. A dog that had a good temper may start acting mean while a fox that would normally not be seen in a town during the daytime might be seen running around between houses and fighting with dogs.
Animals with rabies also start biting and chewing more. This could include biting at people and animals or biting and chewing at skidoos, wood, stones, buildings or even the animal’s own limbs and tail. They may even break their teeth doing it. One of the signs of rabies in dead animals is broken teeth.
Another sign of rabies is the presence of porcupine quills in the face. Animals normally wary of porcupines may approach them when rabid.
Rabid animals may also be seen staggering, drooling, have a change in voice or paralysis of part of the body (such as a hind leg).