Saturday, October 27, 2007

Never trust a wild animal

A bobcat runs through a yard in south Lakeland on Wednesday. The bobcat repeatedly went into an open garage in the area and aggressively chased people who were outside. Polk County Sheriff's Office Animal Control Officers responded, and one of the officers was scratched.

After capture, the animal had to be euthanized because of its aggressiveness toward people and so it could be tested for rabies. The animal was sent to the state laboratory for rabies testing and was confirmed positive Thursday. This is the third case of an animal testing positive for rabies in Polk County this year. - Lakeland Ledger, Sept. 21 (Photo by Scott Wheeler)
I grew up on a farm in the Florida panhandle. To meet the school bus, I walked a quarter mile along an old wagon trail through the woods to the paved road.

When I was in first grade, a major outbreak of rabies occurred in that part of the state, so my mother - more concerned about the danger than I was, of course - walked with me to the bus stop for several months.

Rabid animals were attacking livestock and pets, so my parents' fears for my safety were not irrational. I heard descriptions of "foaming at the mouth" animals and the series of painful shots to the stomach that might prevent dying a slow and painful death if bitten by a rabid animal!

The closest I came to one, however, was the morning that a red fox, in broad daylight, approached the farm house. The hound dogs, along with the free-range chickens and guineas, alarmed by a fox running wildly about the woodpile and vegetable garden, were raising a terrible racket. My dad grabbed his 12-gauge shotgun and, standing on the back porch, fired once as the fox came flying over the picket fence toward the dogs. Struck in midair, the poor creature hit the ground dead.

The dogs had been given their rabies shots, so they were relatively safe, but the incident was frightening nonetheless. I learned my lesson well: avoid wild animals as much as possible -- especially the ones without fear.

Pic: I'm the boy with dark hair. My first-grade teacher was Virginia Spears.


  1. I understand the concerns in regards to rabies. However, I continue to find stories like this disturbing. I live in an area of Florida that is developing rapidly. I hate it. I continually see animals that are displaced and searching for food due to the destruction of their homes to build our homes. It breaks my heart.

  2. Same here. In fact, so much so that I'm considering retiring outside the state one day - despite the pain that leaving FL would cause me. Time will tell whether I can actually do it when the time comes. :-)

    Thankfully, there are more humane ways of dealing with rabies these days, like the treated pellets that are dropped for wildlife to consume in infested areas. Under the conditions at the time, my dad probably did the best thing, possibly saving lives of farm animals and/or other wild animals. And of course he was also from a different generation (WW II, Great Depression, etc). Hunting was a sport for him - it never was for me.

  3. That is so scary. We have a lot of raccoon and skunk rabies here.

  4. Threecollie, I enjoyed your sites. Good luck with the raccoons and skunks, although you're probably relatively safe these days if your pets have their shots and local authorities are aware of a problem.