Jul 6, 2005

Skunk Myths

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All skunks have rabies.
Fact: Not all skunks have rabies. Only rabid skunks have rabies. All mammals are believed to be susceptible to the infection. Skunks have to be exposed to the virus to become rabid, just like any other mammal.

Myth: Skunks are the number one rabies carrier.
Fact: Actually, world wide, unvaccinated dogs are the number one transmitter of rabies. In the United States however, because of an aggressive vaccination program directed at cats, dogs, and ferrets, rabies is mainly a wildlife problem. Of the wildlife species in the US, raccoons account for the largest number of rabies cases. Humans are still at greater risk of getting rabies from a rabid dog in the US as a result of a bite from an unvaccinated dog, due to the fact that dogs are more likely to come in contact with wildlife than are humans.

Myth: If you are bitten by a rabid skunk, you will die.
Fact: If a human contracts rabies from any rabid animal, and they leave it untreated, they would die. However, there are treatments for humans who have been bitten by rabid animals which are virtually 100% effective. These treatments are not as painful or as extensive as they once were.

Myth: Skunks can carry rabies for up to two years.
Fact: There is no evidence of a true carrier state. There has not been a documented case of any skunk incubating rabies for two years.

Myth: A skunk walking around during the day is a sure sign that they have rabies.
Fact: Contrary to what many people think, skunks are not nocturnal. They are crepuscular which means they come out mostly at dawn and dusk. However, they will come out any time of the day or night if there is food available. During late summer and early fall, skunks may be seen more frequently during the day as a result of the young exploring their new world.

Myth: Skunks are in the weasel family.
Fact: Skunks WERE in the weasel family. Thanks in large part to Dr. Jerry Dragoo (Advisor to ASRR board of directors), skunks are no longer considered to be in the mustelid family, but a family of their own.

Myth: Domestic skunks are really just skunks that have been captured from the wild.
Fact: ASRR does not sanction the removal of wild skunks from the wild. Domestic skunks should be obtained from reputable breeders, some of whom have been breeding skunks for over 60 years. Removing skunks from the wild can be dangerous since there is no way to ensure that the skunk has not been exposed to rabies.

Myth: There is no rabies vaccine for skunks.
Fact: There is no approved rabies vaccine for skunks in the US. There is a vaccine used in Canada to control rabies in skunk populations. This vaccine needs further study in the US before it will be approved for use in skunks here.

Myth: All skunks are black and white.
Fact: Nearly all wild skunks are black and white. However, domestic skunks can come in a variety or colors and patterns as you can see on the pages of this web site.

Myth: Rabies can be passed from one generation to the next.
Fact: Rabies is not a heritable disease. A skunk born to a healthy, rabies free mother will be rabies free at birth. A skunk born to a rabid mother will most likely have rabies and not survive long enough to venture into the world.

Myth: Rabies is a disease that should be feared.
Fact: Rabies should not be feared; but by all means it should be respected. There is a lot of information about rabies already known and we are learning more all the time. An aggressive vaccination program can significantly reduce the number of human cases annually. Strict adherence to a vaccination schedule should be practiced for all mammalian pets. This is why a vaccine is needed for all skunks.