Archive for Wednesday, March 6, 2002

Skunk bites girl, father

March 6, 2002

A rural Leavenworth County resident and his young daughter recently were bit by a rabid skunk and now are undergoing treatment for prevention of rabies, according to sheriff's Major Dave Zoellner.

Zoellner said the incident occurred about 7:45 a.m. Feb. 23 at the man's home in the 18200 block of 238th Street, west of Tonganoxie.

According to Zoellner, the 2-year-old girl was bitten and scratched on her legs and arms when she was outside of her house. Her father tried to get the animal away from the girl, and he was bitten. He then killed the skunk with a shot from a .22-caliber rifle.

"But he preserved the head," Zoellner said. "The lab results came back that the skunk was rabid. They had started shots before we got the results back."

Zoellner cautioned county residents about skunks, or other nocturnal animals that are out during daylight hours.

"If you've got a skunk and you see it at night like walking across the road, generally it's not rabid," he said. "But if you see it in the middle of the day, they can be sick or rabid. Don't approach them. Stay away from them."

Melany Sutherland, manager of WildCare Animal Rehabilitation, said that's good advice.

"They are generally nocturnal," she said.

Skunks have babies in May or June, and mothers could be looking for food during the day, she said.

"When the babies are around, I am not as quick to be worried to see one out during the day," Sutherland said. "However largely you're going to see them dusk, at night or maybe early morning. You should be extra cautious if you see one out during the day."

While animals with rabies may exhibit odd behavior, sometimes they can become friendlier than usual. Sutherland described a type of rabies, called dumb rabies.

"They seem overly docile, and overly friendly, but when you touch them it stimulates them and they turn and bite," she said. "When you see an animal that is particularly friendly, you should be cautious."

It is uncommon for a rabid animal to bite a human, she said. But people should be aware of what to look for, she added.

"I wouldn't leap to the automatic conclusion that an animal has rabies, because most of them don't. But you have to be cautious and be aware."

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