If you see a skunk, chances are your mind jumps to the danger of getting sprayed. Your first concern, however, really should be to get away to avoid a rabid bite. Your second thought should be to get away to avoid being sprayed, and then once you are safely out of range, perhaps you should considering locking up your trash to keep them from making a mess. Here is some of the inside scoop on skunks and the threats they might pose.

Skunk 101

Skunks, most famous for their habit of spraying a very offensive smelling liquid when upset, are small, striped mammals, usually black and white. They have strong, short front legs adorned with a pair of claws for digging (which hopefully will be put to uses other than rummaging through your garbage bags). They are omnivorous, and have a very wide diet of insects, berries, nuts, small reptiles, birds, grasses, and occasionally whatever they can scavenge from human trash.

Why They’re Pests

The main reason skunks are pests are their natural defense system; their anal scent glands secrete a strong, foul-smelling liquid whenever they feel threatened. They can usually spray this stuff about 10 feet away, with a startling level of accuracy. Even if we are careful to not upset them, it is impossible to always know if you are walking by a hidden skunk just a little too close, or if a curious pet will cause one to get defensive.

Another reason they are considered pests is their habit of digging through our trash in the search for food. Because of this, and that their stink is so famously difficult to remove, skunks definitely get put into the pest category, without even adding their potential to carry rabies into the question.

Are They Dangerous?

Most skunks are not really dangerous to humans. However, it is difficult to tell when a skunk has rabies, and if it does, it may attack a human and bite with little or no provocation. So, like the dangers of having raccoons hanging around your yard, having skunks will increase your chances of suffering the attack of a rabid animal and contracting a horribly dangerous disease.

Do They Carry Disease?

As we have established, skunks are well known to sometimes carry rabies. This is certainly not true of most skunks, but the risk is not worth it. In the year 2006 they were reported to have made up 21.5 percent of all reported rabies cases, with a total of about 1,494 recorded rabid skunk cases. In addition to rabies, skunks also can carry leptospirosis, canine distimper, canine hepatitis, listeriosis, and a host of parasites including fleas, ticks, and intestinal worms.

Removal

Skunk removal is quite a delicate task for those who would not like to upset a skunk, which can cause them to defensively spray. To really take care of the problem safely, and to feel comfortable in your own backyard without the risk of a stinky surprise, it’s important to call in an expert wildlife removal team to safely remove these smelly little guys. Your nose will be glad you did, and you will be able to rest easy that your family and pets are safer from both the stench and from contracting rabies.

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