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Rabies and Wildlife, MDNR's Role
The mission of the Wildlife Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is: to enhance, restore, and conserve the State's wildlife resources, natural communities, and ecosystems for the benefit of Michigan's citizens, visitors, and future generations. The Wildlife Disease Laboratory is responsible for the health and well-being of Michigan's wildlife.
Rabies is an important viral disease in Michigan because of its human and wildlife health significance. Rabies is a disease that is diagnosed every year in Michigan's wildlife and domestic species. Any mammal, including humans, can contract rabies, with the most common Michigan wildlife species affected being bats, skunks, and fox. The primary domestic species affected are cats, cows, and horses. There are many strains of rabies in North America with each strain adapted to transmission in a particular mammalian host. There are two strains of the rabies virus in the State, the bat-strain and the skunk-strain. Humans and pets are most commonly exposed to bats and the bat-strain of rabies in Michigan. Another strain of rabies, known as raccoon strain rabies, is not currently in Michigan, but is an epidemic in the eastern United States.The raccoon strain of rabies has reached as far west as north-eastern Ohio, but its spread has been stopped there due to an aggressive oral rabies vaccination program. In some eastern states, the spread of this disease was significantly accelerated by human-assisted transportation of raccoons within and between states.