Rabies Detected in Western Alaskan Elk

A western Alaskan moose was infected with rabies, says a news release from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Here is the ADFG report:

(Juneau) – First detection of rabies in an Alaskan moose (Teller, Western Alaska)

Early on the morning of June 2, ADF&G Nome area staff received several reports of a moose in and around the Teller community acting aggressively towards people. The moose was unbalanced, stumbling, drooling profusely, and had bare patches of skin. ADF&G staff in Nome consulted with ADF&G wildlife veterinarian Dr. Kimberlee Beckmen and dispatched the animal that afternoon due to aggressive behavior and signs suggestive of rabies disease. ADF&G staff collected samples from the moose and sent them for analysis. ADF&G personnel also coordinated with the City of Teller and burned the body.

Rabies virus in the brain was detected on June 5 by the Alaska State Laboratory of Virology. On June 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention further confirmed that the virus was a variant of arctic fox rabies. This is the same variant that circulated in red foxes during the outbreak in arctic foxes on the Nome/Seward Peninsula and North Slope last winter, suggesting that the moose contracted the virus from a fox.

This is the first recorded confirmation of rabies in a moose in Alaska. Diagnoses of rabies in moose are rare, but there have been moose diagnosed with rabies in South Dakota, Minnesota, Canada, and Russia. In Alaska, only moose with neurological signs are tested for rabies (along with other potential causes of brain inflammation, such as chronic emaciation, parasite migrations, or toxicities).

Due to this new case, ADF&G plans to increase rabies surveillance by testing all brain samples from wild mammals found dead or culled in regions with enzootic fox rabies, including western Alaska, when feasible. Members of the public can help by calling ADF&G if they find a dead mammal or see a mammal with signs of rabies (excessive salivation, abnormal/aggressive behavior, bite marks, etc.). Photographs or videos of the animal are helpful, but it is important not to come into contact with a potentially rabid animal or carcass.

Due to the largely solitary nature of elk, an outbreak of rabies in the elk population is highly unlikely, but isolated cases such as this do occur rarely. Elk that are killed by hunters on the Seward Peninsula that display normal behavior and show no signs of abnormalities or disease should still be considered safe to eat. Precautions when slaughtering elk or other mammals for human consumption would include the use of rubber or latex gloves. When finished handling game, wash your hands thoroughly with soap or sanitizer, and sanitize knives, equipment, and surfaces that came in contact with game. You must not eat, drink or smoke while delivering the game, and you must cook the game to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.



Vaccinating dogs and cats against rabies remains the most important way to prevent rabies disease in people. Similarly, it is still important to prevent pets from interacting with foxes or other wildlife, and not leave litter or other attractants accessible to foxes and other wildlife.

If a person is bitten by a wild animal or pet that may have been exposed to rabies, immediately wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical attention. Contact the Alaska Section of Epidemiology for more information: 907-269-8000.

Report wild animals found dead or acting abnormally to the nearest ADF&G area office as soon as possible so that staff can respond appropriately.

Resources on rabies:

  • ADF&G Rabies Webpage:
  • Alaska DOH/Epidemiology Section Rabies Web Page: