RABIES ALERT: Reindeer observed near Ny-Ålesund in mid-July tests positive for disease; warning issued about infection risk


A sick reindeer that was killed along with her calf near Ny-Ålesund earlier this month has tested positive for rabies, raising concerns about the further spread of the disease and the upcoming reindeer hunting season, according to The Governor of Svalbard.

The two reindeer were killed July 16 after the mother showed behaviorial signs of the disease. Samples of the animals were sent to the Veterinary Institute in Oslo, which confirmed the mother – but not the calf – was infected.

“We reiterate the call for people to be aware and report to the Governor if they see polar foxes or reindeer who are exhibiting unnatural behavior, or dead foxes or reindeer,” Morten Wedege, the governor’s environmental manager, in a prepared statement.

Typical signs are aggressiveness in foxes, and inactivity and paralysis in reindeer. The governor’s official requested people submit pictures – or preferably video –  of carcasses or animals showing symptoms.

“We also ask people to take their precautions,” Wedege said. “Foxes must not be fed. Dogs must be on a leash and must not stand unattended.”

Furthermore, the governor is urging people who have had contact with wildlife obtain a rabies vaccine if they have not already done so.