It is easy to recognize skunks from their signature white and black coat color and their unique defense mechanism of foul-smelling signature stink. There is a myth that every skunk has rabies and can infect man and animals like cats and dogs. While it is true that skunks are common carriers of rabies, you are only in danger of infection if the skunk in your house or yard is rabid. The presence of a skunk in any yard or home alarms a homeowner because your pets are at risk of rabies infection. This always makes people ask if all skunks carry rabies, and this piece will answer the questions and help you understand the signs that a rabid skunk exhibits.

What Percentage of Skunks Carries Rabies?
It is impossible to carry out tests on the entire population of skunks globally, but a small part of the skunk population represents the entire skunk population. A survey of skunks in California shows that only six percent of the animals that the researchers encountered were positive for the rabies virus. In the United States, scientists have reported that skunks are the third-largest rabies reservoirs after bats and raccoons. Of all the animals that researchers tested, skunks make up 24.6% of the positive cases. This proves that not all skunks that you encounter are rabid.

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system. Skunks contract rabies from bites from rabid skunks or other rabid animals like raccoons, foxes, and squirrels. When skunks contract rabies, the virus stays in the blood for about six months, and the animal does not show physical signs of the disease. The skunk at this time is not capable of spreading the virus to other animals; transmission is only possible after the skunk begins to show clinical signs, and the virus becomes active.

Forms of Rabies
Rabies has two distinct forms: the dumb and furious forms. They have distinct characteristics; these include:
· Dumb Form: This form is evident in a skunk that enters your yard and roams fearlessly when people are around. Skunks are usually very fearful and prefer to stay away from humans.
· Furious Form: This form of rabies is very easy to recognize as the skunk is fearless and aggressive and will wander around your yard in a disoriented manner. In extreme cases, the rabid skunk will froth from its mouth and attack any moving object. A healthy skunk will usually spray people and animals and run away when they approach. You must not engage a rabid skunk or try to capture it.

Signs of Rabies in a Skunk
Skunks exhibit some nervous signs when they are rabid. These signs include drooling and stringy saliva, frothing from the mouth, staggering, disorientation, and hydrophobia, which is an aversion to water due to paralysis of the gustatory nerves. Skunks that are rabid are unusually bold and fearless; they also possess unusual strength and are wild and aggressive. At later stages, the skunk has seizures and vocalizes then death. There is no treatment for rabies once the symptoms begin to manifest, and death is imminent.

What to Do
When you suspect that a skunk is rabid, do not try to engage or capture it. Instead, steer clear of its path and remove your pets from harm's way. Inform your state's wildlife control and removal services and report the symptoms that you see. Do not panic while you are waiting for the professionals to remove the rabid skunk from your yard. Any excitement may further agitate the skunk and cause it to attack you.

Go back to the Cheshire County wildlife removal home page.