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Skunks are biggest rabies vectors in area

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By Tim Schrag

The Hutchinson News

Do you smell that? A noticeable up-tick in skunk activity across the region is making it's presence felt ... or at least smelt.

This is generally the time of year skunks and other mammals of that size prepare for winter, said David McCauley, assistant manager and law enforcement officer of Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Additionally, this year's wet spring and summer, he said, allowed more younger skunks to survive, adding up to a more visible or odoriferous population.

"You're generally going to see more of them now because they're trying to feed," he said. "Especially in a metropolitan areas where there's a lot of food."

Skunks typically are scavengers like raccoons, McCauley said, however they aren't nearly as adventurous. They won't knock over garbage cans to get to food, he said, but if a garbage bag is left unattended they have no problem tearing into it.

A primary food target for skunks living near humans is cat food McCauley said.

Last Tuesday The News reported officials at Kansas State University had notified the Dodge City Animal Control Division a skunk they apprehended tested positive for rabies.

The Dodge City Animal Control Division is requesting all domestic pet owners to have their pets vaccinated for rabies, which is required by Dodge City ordinance and Kansas State statute.

According to a report composed by the University of Nebraska Extension Service skunks are highly susceptible to rabies. The report says skunks made up almost 60 percent of all positive rabies results of animals submitted for testing in Nebraska in 2012.

"The best way to avoid rabies exposure is to avoid skunks," the report says. "Parents should warn children to never approach or pet skunks or any other wild animals."

(c)2014 The Hutchinson News

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