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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Visitors at Zoo Miami are being greeted with a warning sign as they first walk in — a rabies alert at the park.
This after zoo officials say after a sixth raccoon on zoo property tested positive for the disease.
“It’s just kind of scary walking in to see that,” said zoo visitor Madison Mera.
“I didn’t expect walking in to a place like this. I guess I gotta take precaution,” said zoo visitor Jamie Johnson.
According to the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County, this is the sixth confirmed rabid animal identified in the county this year.
The agency extended the rabies alert for the area of SW 152nd Street to the north, SW 187th Street to the south, SW 117th Avenue to the east and SW 137th Avenue to the West.
The agency did not mention specifically that all six of the cases were found on zoo property.
Zoo Miami wildlife expert Ron Magill says zoo staff have been actively looking for rabid animals ever since the first case was discovered a few months ago on zoo property.
“In my 39 years I’ve never seen a rabies case here at the park. Now in this last year we’ve had six,” said Magill. “Now keep in mind, the zoo is 740 acres of property. The areas of where these animals were found, only one of these animals was found in an area where the public would be able to access.”
A rabid raccoon can appear aggressive or lethargic, disoriented, confused, unafraid of noises that usually make him run, have difficulty walking due to paralysis, and drooling or frothing at the mouth.
“Any unnatural behavior can be a symptom of rabies. And having said that, an animal doesn’t have to display any symptom of rabies. An animal may be acting normal and still carry rabies,” said Magill.
Magill says all of the animals at the zoo have been vaccinated against rabies so their concern is not for their animals but for visitors.
“People come to the zoo and they’ll see something cute, like a little squirrel or a little animal that they want to feed their popcorn to and we have to urge people even using rabies as something that can be potentially here to know please do not do this,” said Magill.
Magill is also asking people not to feed wild or feral animals.
“When you send out these massive quantities of food, raccoons will come to it, the feral cats and the domestic cats. That is a very contagious disease with body fluids where animals feed so please do not feed these feral animals because you’re only contributing to the problem,” said Magill.
CBS4 was not able to reach anyone with the Florida Department of Health Tuesday evening regarding why it didn’t specify all six rabid animals were found on zoo property.
CBS4 reached out to the county and a spokesperson said they were looking into it.