Morby Finds A What?!

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Northern River Otters
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Recently, a young man in Florida was attacked by an otter – believed to be rabid.  When I saw the headline, I thought it was just sensationalism to get me to watch the video.  When I opened it and read the accompanying article, I was most certainly shocked.  I used to work in the Bronx Zoo - one of my favorite jobs.  While my official job was working with the human animals, as an animal lover, I befriended a zoo keeper who allowed me to feed, from a distance, some of the smaller animals.  One of my favorite exhibits to visit each day was the otters.  It would never have occurred to me that I would need to be that afraid of them, however it did get me to thinking about my own experiences with animals here in The Bronx and all of the news about the different types of “atypical” animals – boa constrictors, coyotes, beavers, bats, raccoons, to name a few -  suddenly reappearing here.  This urban jungle seems to be slowly but surely returning to its roots, as a natural jungle.  This “return to nature” comes with a whole host of concerns.

About 2 years ago, my husband was walking our dog, Morby, along our block.  Shortly after he left the house, he called me on the phone to ask me to come down the block to check something out.  He was adamant that I come.  As I approached him and Morby, they seemed to be watching something on the ground.  He is not a “nature” person, so he felt he needed me to come down to validate whatever he believed was on the ground.

He explained that as they were walking, he almost stepped on something thinking it was just a leaf.  Morby walked right up to this “leaf”, sparing it from my husband’s crushing foot.  Morby was extremely attracted to this thing, which concerned my husband so he used his foot to move it off to the side into the dirt.  As he touched it with his foot, it moved just enough for him to identify it as….a bat. Once we got past the initial shock of actually seeing a bat, I suddenly realized that this bat had to be injured or worse yet, very sick.  Not only was he lying in the middle of the sidewalk, without much movement even when approached or touched, but it was the middle of the day.  I told my husband to just hang around while I ran home to call….somebody (wasn’t even sure who I was going to call), and I could get a box to at least cover it, thereby protecting it from someone else potentially squishing him, but also, suspecting that it could have rabies, to protect anyone from being exposed.

I made a few phone calls.  I was standing over this boxed bat with my foot on the box to secure it, while waiting for someone from Health & Mental Hygiene to contact me back.  In that time, a curious neighbor asked about what was in the box.  I told him and he wanted to see.  I explained to him that the bat likely had rabies and should be left alone.  He explained to me that it was okay because he was very experienced with animals.  In my head, I was like, “Ahuh!  So experienced that you are ready to handle a likely-rabid animal” (that’s the clean version of the conversation in my head).  He was adamant about taking this bat…almost to the point I was afraid it would turn into a fight… so I let him take it because at least I knew where he lived.  Shortly after that, a representative from Health & Mental Hygiene contacted me and I explained to him that a neighbor took the bat.  He told me that no one should handle the bat because rabies could be transmitted from the skin if the person has an opened wound.  I told him that I had explained all of that to the knucklehead but I was not going to get into a fight about it.

They came and claimed the bat from the neighbor.  I know this because they actually called me back to let me know.  That experience did educate me in a way that I had not ever considered I needed educating.  I was raised with dogs in the middle of The Bronx.  I learned that stray dogs, and maybe squirrels, were the only animals that we had to be concerned about being rabid.  Of course, despite the fact that my father told me on several occasions, there was other wildlife out there - like bats and skunks - in our backyard, for 35 years I had never seen one, and would never have considered them to be rabid, so wasn’t ever concerned about them.  As long as I was careful with the squirrels and stray dogs I was good to go.

But with the proliferation of all of these “new” animals making their way back into this urban landscape, it is important that we educate ourselves and our children on the dangers, beyond the actual bite, of handling animals.

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2 comments:

Crystal M. Canole said...

This is a great article. I thoroughly enjoyed it. A couple years ago my boyfriend and i were in a park playing disc golf and came across a bat on the ground. I called animal control and they said it would be hours so i scooped up the bat in a serving tray that had a lid and called a bat sanctuary i knew about. They took the bat and rehabilitated it. Supposedly it had a broken wing! Thanks for helping me remember this!
Looking back now though, i probably should not have picked it up. If i had to do it again though i would still pick it up. I couldn't just leave it there.

Ellie and Mom said...

Interesting find! I would feel so awful in that situation as well, I'm glad that someone came to get it and hopefully heal it or at least end its pain.