Rabies animals

What You Need to Know

Rabies is a preventable viral disease of humans and mammals most often  transmitted  through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. The US averages 1-3 deaths per year reported due to rabies. 

Rabies virus is transmitted through direct contact (such as through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth) with saliva or brain/nervous system tissue from an infected animal.

People usually get rabies from the bite of a rabid animal. It is also possible, but rare, for people to get rabies from non-bite exposures, which can include scratches, abrasions, or open wounds that are exposed to saliva or other potentially infectious material from a rabid animal. Other types of contact, such as petting a rabid animal or contact with the blood, urine or feces of a rabid animal, are not associated with risk for infection and are not considered to be exposures of concern for rabies.

Potential Exposure to Rabies


Wild Animals Rabies Surveillance in the United States 2013-2017Rabies US map

When potential exposures to rabies occur, consultation with your healthcare provider or local public health jurisdiction is recommended. Preventative treatment, known as rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (rPEP), is administered to prevent the development of disease. Please see the table below for information regarding exposures by various animal species.  International exposures to rabies require further assessment by public health. To contact your local health department, please visit the DPHHS website for  local public health office contact information.

Potential exposure to rabies:

What is considered a rabies exposure
Bites Bites that break the skin from an animal capable of transmitting the rabies virus are a potential rabies exposure. Bites from cats and dogs are the most commonly reported exposures from pets in MT.
Bat Exposures
Most bats are not rabid. However, any direct contact between a human and a bat should be evaluated for an exposure. Other situations that might qualify as exposures
include finding a bat in the same room as a person who might
be unaware that a bite or direct contact had occurred, such as those who are sleeping.
Non-Bite Exposures
This type of exposure rarely causes rabies. The contamination of open wounds or abrasions (including scratches) or mucous membranes with saliva or other
potentially infectious material, like brain matter, from a
rabid animal also constitutes a non-bite exposure.
Do you think you were potentially exposed?  Contact your local healthcare provider or local health department 


What is not considered a rabies exposure
The following is not considered a potential exposure to rabies:
  • Touching a surface or object a potentially rabid animal has touched
  • Touching a healthy pet that may have handled a bat or other rabid animal recently
  • If a bat or skunk is found outside where humans or animals could not have had contact

PDF version of What is not considered a rabies exposure.

Contact your local health department, local public health office contact information and/or call a healthcare provider. 

The rabies virus  infects the central nervous system and is almost universally fatal in humans. The virus is slow moving, so there is time to perform animal assessments after a potential exposure. According to CDC, no person in the United States has ever contracted rabies from a dog, cat, or ferret that was confined and observed for 10 days.

Are you from a state other than Montana and have questions?  Please see the CDC website listing state and local rabies consultation contacts. Management of potential rabies exposures may differ depending on the location, so it is important to consult with your local health contacts.Rabies in a human or animal, or exposure to a human by a species susceptible to rabies infection is a reportable condition to the local health departments in the state of Montana (ARM 37.114.203).

rPEP by Animal
Animal Type Evaluation and
Disposition of the
Rabies Post Exposure Prophylaxis
(rPEP) Recommendations
Dogs, Cats, and
Healthy and
available for 10 day
Do not seek or administer rPEP initially.
Contact public health to evaluate the
exposure and, if possible, arrange for safe
observation or assessment of the animal.
Administer rPEP if determined to have
rabies during the observation period.
Dogs, Cats, and
Animal available but
has signs or
suggestive of rabies
Contact public health, and an assessment
by veterinarian is required. Seek or
administer rPEP if public health
determines the animal is rabid, or rabies
cannot be ruled out.
Dogs, Cats, and
Unknown, unable to
locate the animal
Case by case assessment with local public
health. Seek or administer rPEP if
recommended by local public health.
Bats and Skunks High risk animal for
rabies in MT, regard
as rabid unless
animal testing
proves it is not rabid
Contact local public health to report
exposure and for assistance with animal
testing. Seek or administer rPEP if animal
unavailable for testing, or if testing is
indeterminate, and notify local public
health of the administration.
Wild mammalian
animals (except
lagomorphs and
small rodents)
Medium risk for
animal rabies in MT,
regard as rabid
unless animal
testing is negative
Contact local public health to report
exposure, and for assistance with animal
testing. Public health may recommend
Livestock (horses,
pigs, cattle and other
large animal species)
Low risk for rabies
in Montana
Case by case assessment with local public
health. Public health may recommend
administration of rPEP.


Animals not a rabies concern in MT
Domesticated and Wild Animal Species that are not a Rabies Concern in MT*
All amphibian, All birds, All reptiles, Gopher, Mole, Squirrel, Guinea pig, Mouse, Vole, Hamster, Rabbit, Chipmunk, Hare, Rat, Gerbil, Hedgehog, Shrew

PDF version of Animals not a rabies concern in MT.

Resources by Animal