Is there a skunk in your yard and you are worried it might have rabies? Do you see it during the day? Is it spraying your dog? The majority of skunks you see will not have rabies. Most of them are only taking opportunity to feed from your pet dish or clear your yard of bugs and mice. Even a skunk seen in daylight is most likely a mother with a litter of kittens to nurse. This is not to say that you shouldn't be concerned. But before you pull out your shotgun and blow it away take a moment to notice what I call The Three A's of Rabies - Appearance, Activity and Attitude. I created this simple means of judging the likely-hood of whether or not a skunk is rabid so people can better determine the health of a skunk in their yard. Hopefully this method will save many skunk lives.
Be aware that anytime you call animal control to pick up a trapped skunk the majority of them will kill the skunk even if it is healthy, and not always humanely.
This is a picture of a rabid skunk. Notice the unkempt fur and mangy appearance. Also the hunched up body posture. This skunk was uncoordinated and appeared as if drunk. He did not protest that I was near the way a healthy skunk would have. I took these pictures myself and turned the skunk in for testing.
My Three A's of Rabies:
Appearance - Is the fur well groomed and healthy looking? Does it have good body posture and walk normally? This is a healthy skunk.
Or is the fur unkempt and dirty? Does it appear as if it is drunk, uncoordinated? This could be an ill animal.
Activity - What is the skunk doing? Is it eating bugs from the yard, or food from your pets dish? Does it move and react with purpose and attention? This is a healthy animal.
Or is it just sleeping in the middle of the yard, or wandering aimlessly? Does it appear to be injured in the back legs or partially paralyzed? This could be an ill animal.
Attitude - Is the skunk alert and react by fluffing its tail and stomping its feet? Does it stand its ground in your presence and run away when you back off? This is a healthy animal.
Or does it not care if you or your pet approach it? Does it attack pets or people unprovoked? This could be an ill animal.
You should NEVER approach a skunk who appears to be ill! Call animal control to handle this animal.
Rabies: there are two kinds - aggressive and dumb rabies. Their symptoms are very much as they sound. Most importantly know this - not all skunks carry the rabies virus, they have to be infected with it.
With aggressive rabies the animal becomes aggressive, attacking without provocation. Think about skunk behavior for a minute. Skunks do not normally attack, they are not fighters, they are defenders. Given every opportunity a skunk will run away rather than have to defend or worse fight. But when they are faced with a barking, charging dog or kids with rocks, etc. they spray to defend themselves. They do not charge and bite. So if a situation is a skunk who is attacking, charging and biting without cause then I would advise calling animal control to kill the animal. And if a human has been bitten by a skunk always immediately seek medical attention! Do not delay, go to the emergency room. Rabies is almost 100% fatal, do not take chances. If a pet has been bitten then it needs to be quarantined for a minimum of two weeks. Talk to your vet for advice on this situation. Even if the pet has had their rabies vaccination it may need another one for extra protection. But even then it is possible for the pet to contract the virus. Yes, it is still possible to contract the virus even if one has been vaccinated. It is not likely, but it is possible. Seek medical attention of the human or veterinary kind immediately. Once symptoms occur it is too late.
This is the same rabid skunk as pictured above. Notice his unbalanced and mangy appearance. His hunched body posture. The base of his tail is dragging the ground. His ears are drooping down. He looks as if he is about to fall over.
Below is a healthy skunk, with sleek, shiny fur, and good body posture. Though he carries his tail low behind him, a sign of casual concern, the base of his tail near the body is off the ground. The sick skunk above was nearly dragging his rear end.
Murphy, another of Meggie's brothers.