Monday, January 22, 2007

Take care of roadkill and rabies

As published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Saturday, January 20th:

Orange County won the state championship in 2005, finished a close second behind Guilford County last year, and is already well on its way to another state championship this year.

I wish I was talking about football or SAT scores or something of that ilk. Unfortunately I'm talking about the county's relative standing in the number of rabies cases it has compared to the rest of the state.

It seems like every day when I open up the paper there's been another confirmed rabies case. Most of the time I don't bat much of an eye. The vast majority of the cases are way out in the county, and since I live near downtown Chapel Hill, don't affect me.

But I kind of reached my breaking point when one of 2007's first pair of cases was a rabid fox that attacked someone walking near UNC Hospitals. I walk around there all the time, and that could just as well have been me.

We also had a rabid beaver in Umstead Park last year, right across the street from where I live. He was running right after some folks picnicking in the park. One of them had the ingenuity to jump up on a table and beat the heck out of that thing with a stick. I'd like to hire that fast thinker as my bodyguard because there's no way I would have had the guts and wherewithal to do that. My sense is that few other people would either.

I want to preface by saying that it could well be the case that Orange County does a better job of reporting its rabies incidents to the state than other counties do, and that's a part of the reason for its frontrunner status.

Still, there's no reason I can see that we should have more cases than virtually anywhere else in the state, including counties that both cover a much larger area and are on balance much more rural.

I think it's time for the county commissioners to put some pressure on their staff to figure out why we have such a rabies problem, and what can be done about it.

I don't want to have to move with trepidation every time I see an animal acting weirdly when I'm walking around town.

We have outstanding folks working for the county, and I'm confident that if told to find a solution they will be able to come up with some steps toward resolving the problem. There's lots of thing that Orange County leads the state in, and almost all of them are good. By tackling the rabies problem I hope we can get rid of the bad one.

As long as we're on the topic of public health issues, I'd like to see Chapel Hill look at how it can do a better job of cleaning up roadkill.

One day in October I was on the phone with a Town Council member as I stepped in a dead squirrel right on the sidewalk on Cameron Avenue.

As grossed out as I was by the experience, it had long struck me as inevitable. There is a real problem with roadkill being allowed to sit on the sidewalk for days without being cleaned up. I suppose I could call and report every time I see it, but the onus should be more on the town than individual citizens to ensure that's being taken care of.

The most disgusting piece of fallout from this problem I've ever seen happened one day last summer when I saw a dead squirrel while walking downtown. I made a point of walking back home on the other side of the street -- and I was sure glad I did when I saw a raccoon eating it for dinner!

That's a site I could live without seeing ever again. Needless to say I didn't have much of a dinner that evening.

I'm sure folks are doing their jobs, but I'm equally sure that I've never been in any other community that seemed to have dead animals sprawled across the sidewalk with such frequency. There must be some room for improvement in how we dispose of roadkill, and I'd like to see it made. Chapel Hill's town government is outstanding at virtually everything it does, and this is one more thing to add to the list.

Roadkill and rabies. These are two of the problems that have been bothering me of late in an otherwise outstanding community. Let's hope our elected leaders and the great staffs they oversee can do something about them.



Post a Comment

<< Home