“I stuck my hand in the bear’s mouth.” BIG Mistake

Submitted photo, Star News

Hunting guide exposed to rabies from black bear

Star News – Although rare, bears can get rabies from bites by raccoons

Johnnie Dale, owner of Buffalo Creek Guide Service in Sampson and Hyde County, North Carolina, underwent rabies vaccinations after handling a black bear in Hyde County.

He found the listless bear on Dec. 16, 2018.

“I was filling feeders and he was lying beside one,” Dale said.

“He weighed 85 to 90 pounds and was alive, but non-responsive. I checked him again at 7 p.m. He was breathing and moving his eyes but not moving his legs. I pulled out his tongue to check his throat, but could not find anything wrong with him.”

The next day, the bear was dead. Dale called N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Bear and Furbearer Biologist Colleen Olfenbuttel.

She arranged a meeting with Biologist Kimberly McCargo at Lake Mattmuskeet, who transported it to the Edenton office.

On Dec. 18, District 1 Biologist Chris Turner performed a necropsy. On Dec. 19, Turner sent samples to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at University of Georgia.

Two days later, SCWDS notified WRC and N.C. public health officials the bear had rabies.

“Rarely is a black bear’s death disease-related,” Olfenbuttel said. “Maryland had a positive rabies test in a black bear in 2007 and Maryland had one in 2012. New York reported two positives in 1999 and 2003. Some references also indicated rabies in bears prior to 1992 in New Jersey in and Arizona.”

“Colleen told me somebody from the Hyde County Health Department would call,” Dale said. “When she did, I said I stuck my hand in the bear’s mouth without gloves. She told me she would call back.”

The follow-up call advised Dale to go to a hospital immediately because he was at the end of the five-day period following exposure when rabies immunizations are effective. Read more.

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