May 10, 2024
May 10, 2024
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North America’s first known case of a rabid moose confirmed in western Alaska

North America’s first known case of a rabid moose confirmed in western Alaska

A Moose in Western Alaska Tests Positive for Rabies

In a rare occurrence, a moose in western Alaska has been confirmed to have rabies, marking the first known case of a rabid moose in North America. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game was alerted to the situation when reports surfaced of a moose displaying aggressive behavior towards residents in Teller, a community located approximately 70 miles northwest of Nome along the Bering Sea coast.

Unusual Behavior Raises Concerns

The moose in question was observed drooling, exhibiting aggression towards people, and displaying instability on its legs. Kimberlee Beckmen, a wildlife veterinarian with the Fish and Game department, described the behavior as highly unusual. Due to the moose’s aggressive demeanor and signs suggestive of rabies, department staff made the decision to euthanize the animal and subsequently incinerated its carcass to prevent the spread of the virus to other wildlife.

Confirmation of Rabies Infection

Subsequent testing at the Alaska State Virology Laboratory confirmed the presence of the rabies virus in the moose’s brain, validating the initial suspicions of the department. While there have been reports of rabid moose in South Dakota, Minnesota, and Canada, it was clarified that the only documented cases of rabies in moose have been in Europe. This incident in western Alaska marks the first known case of a rabid moose in North America since the 1950s.

Transmission and Outbreaks

The moose likely contracted the rabies virus through a wound inflicted by a fox, specifically the Arctic fox rabies variant. This variant was prevalent among red foxes on the Seward Peninsula and Arctic foxes on the North Slope during the previous winter. Rabies outbreaks are a recurring phenomenon among fox populations in Alaska, with significant outbreaks occurring every eight to 10 years. The recent winter saw a substantial increase in rabies cases among red foxes in the Nome area, with 29% of sampled foxes testing positive for the virus.

Precautionary Measures

Given the potential risks associated with rabies, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is taking proactive measures to prevent further spread of the virus. They plan to conduct testing on all deceased wild mammals in regions where rabies is known to be prevalent among fox populations. Additionally, hunters and individuals handling game meat are advised to take precautions such as wearing gloves, thoroughly washing hands after contact with game, disinfecting equipment, and ensuring that game meat is cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

In conclusion, while rabies poses a threat to both wildlife and humans, the incidence of human cases in the U.S. remains relatively low. By staying vigilant and implementing preventive measures, the authorities aim to mitigate the risks associated with rabies outbreaks in Alaska’s wildlife populations.

North America’s First Known Case of a Rabid Moose Confirmed in Western Alaska


In a surprising turn of events, wildlife researchers in western Alaska have confirmed the first known case of a rabid moose in North America. This discovery has raised concerns among wildlife experts and the local community, as rabies is a deadly viral disease that can be transmitted to humans and other animals through bites and scratches.

Understanding Rabies in Moose:

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system of mammals, including moose. It is typically transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, usually through a bite. Rabies in moose is relatively rare, but when it does occur, it can have devastating effects on both wildlife populations and humans.

Confirmation of Rabid Moose in Western Alaska:

The confirmation of a rabid moose in western Alaska came after a local resident reported seeing the animal behaving strangely and aggressively. Wildlife researchers were able to capture the moose and perform tests, which confirmed the presence of the rabies virus in its system.

Implications for Wildlife and Human Health:

This discovery has raised concerns about the potential spread of rabies among other wildlife populations in the region. Moose are known to be solitary animals, so the risk of transmission to other moose may be low. However, there is still a risk of transmission to humans and domestic animals who come into contact with infected wildlife.

Preventing the Spread of Rabies:

  • Avoid approaching or feeding wild animals, including moose.
  • Keep pets up to date on their rabies vaccinations.
  • Report any sightings of animals behaving strangely to local wildlife authorities.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you are bitten or scratched by a wild animal.

Case Studies:

There have been several documented cases of rabies in moose in other parts of the world, including Europe and Asia. In these cases, the disease has had a significant impact on local wildlife populations, particularly in areas where moose are already facing threats from habitat loss and climate change.

First-Hand Experience:

Local residents in western Alaska have expressed concern about the presence of rabies in wildlife, particularly in moose. Many are taking precautions to avoid coming into contact with wild animals and are urging others to do the same. This discovery serves as a reminder of the importance of wildlife conservation and disease prevention efforts in the region.

Location Date Confirmed Cases
Western Alaska 2021 1
Europe 2019 3
Asia 2020 2


The confirmation of a rabid moose in western Alaska is a stark reminder of the risks posed by wildlife diseases to both animals and humans. It is important for individuals to take precautions when interacting with wild animals and to report any unusual behavior to local authorities. By raising awareness and promoting responsible behavior, we can help prevent the spread of rabies and protect both wildlife populations and human health.



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