Skunks are becoming state's No. 1 rabies carriers

The past couple of weeks there's been a large mostly white skunk seen wandering around our neighborhood in broad daylight. That's rather unusual since skunks are nocturnal mammals. So far the skunk has managed to avoid capture or termination. But it's a reminder that any mammal that exhibits unusual behavior should be avoided and observed for signs of sickness ... especially rabies.

According to the State Dept. of Health Rabies Laboratory, since the beginning of this year, 5,443 mammals have been tested in the state for rabies with just 273 of them testing positive for the disease. Bats were the number one species tested (2,322) with 56 testing positive. Raccoons were the second most common species with 1,302 tested and 164 proving to be rabid. Cats were third with 758 and 12 testing positive. Skunks tested consisted of 150 total with 22 being rabid. So far, 42 mammals from Chenango County have been examined with just two testing positive for rabies. Want to guess what species those two were? You got it – skunks. That 15 percent of all skunks submitted for testing statewide proved to be rabid – and that's the highest percentage of any species tested – is a warning beyond the usual smelly reason to steer clear of any skunks you may encounter. According to the DEC: "Skunks are vulnerable to a variety of internal and external parasites. They also can get and spread rabies and other wildlife diseases. Skunks have been the most commonly confirmed rabies species, other than raccoons, during the spread of raccoon rabies throughout Southern New York. One of the most common skunk complaints, a strong odor of skunk essence during the nights of early fall, often is the result of inadequate home main tenance and of allowing dogs to roam free at night. This happens in early fall because skunks search for cubby holes to spend the winter. Damaged building foundations and spaces underneath porches and decks serve this purpose well.

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