Rabies warning at Arizona National Park after some animals found dead, others acting strangely

Fox standing on road with head down and mouth open
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The National Park Service (NPS) has issued a warning about a possible rabies outbreak in Arizona after several foxes were found dead, and foxes and raccoons were reported acting strangely at Saguaro National Park. A hiker was also bitten by an unusually aggressive bobcat at the park last weekend, and the animal has yet to be found and captured.

None of the fox carcasses have yet been recovered for testing, but experts are advising caution. If you have physical contact with a wild animal at the park, you should notify staff and seek medical attention immediately.

"Visitors should observe all wildlife from a safe and respectful distance and never pick up or handle a wild animal," the NPS warns. "Visitors with pets should ensure that all rabies vaccinations are up to date and should discuss any wildlife bites with their veterinarian."

Pets are permitted in Saguaro, but must be kept on a 6ft leash and attended at all times due to threats including cactus spines, thorny brush, rattlesnakes, scorpions, and open mine shafts, in addition to extreme heat during the summer months.

What is rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease usually transmitted through the saliva of infected animals, often through a bite or scratch. You can't tell for certain that an animal has rabies by looking at it, but it may be unusually aggressive or drool more than usual. Others may seem more timid than usual, or appear lethargic and slow, letting you get closer than would normally be possible.

Rabies has a long incubation period (sometimes several months) but is almost always fatal once symptoms develop. If you have been in contact with a wild animal, you should wash any bites or scratches with soap and water, and seek medical advice to see whether you should receive post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP.

Only around one to three cases of rabies are reported in humans each year in the US, but around 60,000 people receive PEP according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.