MYTHS VERSUS FACTS

1.  Myth:  Skunks are rabies carriers.  (Fact:  This erroneous statement implies that all skunks carry rabies.  All mammals can contract rabies if infected from the bite of a rabid animal.  Most wild animals stay clear of skunks to avoid being sprayed in the eyes, so the odds that a skunk will get bitten by another species is rare.)

2.  Myth:  Skunks are the number one carrier of rabies.  (Fact:  Unvaccinated outdoor cats and free-roaming dogs are a much higher risk because of their access to wild animals.  The reported totals of how many skunks have rabies are very biased numbers.  Each county has a different animal that ranks number one.)

3.  Myth:  Foaming at the mouth is a sure sign of rabies.  (Fact:  Foaming at the mouth can also be a symptom of distemper, coccidia, round worms, ticks, or other internal or external parasite overload, diabetes, poisoning, liver failure, epilepsy, allergies, herpes, and severe dehydration and emaciation, all of which are more common than rabies.)

4.  Myth:  If you are bitten by a rabid skunk, you will die.  (Fact:  Research statistics show that 70% of those untreated victims of rabid animal bites did not get ill or contract rabies when they followed proper and immediate cleansing of the wound.)  Still, it should not be treated lightly!

5.  Myth:  Animal rehabilitators might accidentally release rabies-infected orphan skunks.  (Fact:  Highly unlikely if done right.  In the four to five months it takes to rehabilitate baby skunks, any who have rabies would have shed the virus and already died.  Any skunks released will have been observed long enough to be confident they do not have rabies.

6.  Myth:  Skunks carry rabies up to two years.  (Fact:  This has never been proven.  Even IF it were true, you can only get rabies from a bite of a rabid animal up to a week before it shows clinical signs of rabies whether it is two weeks or two years.  At that time the rabies would be in the saliva where you could contract the virus.  The rest of the "carrying" time you, nor any other animals, would not get rabies.)

7.  Myth:  According to the Dept. of Fish & Game, the only way to check an animal for rabies is to remove its head and examine the brain.  (Fact:  There are procedures that can be done on live skunks.  Saliva, tear duct, hair folicle, and estrogen testing are four, but they aren't considered as reputable.  It is even possible that a piece of brain tissue could be extracted from boring a little hole in the brain where the animal wouldn't have to be destroyed.)

8.  Myth:  There is no rabies vaccine for skunks.  (Fact:  This is not true!  There is documented proof that the Imrab "killed virus" rabies vaccine works on 100% of the tested skunks, and it immunizes from one to two years.  Just because this vaccine hasn't been "approved" yet, doesn't mean that it isn't "proven".)  It just hasn't been approved for use on skunks yet.  Vaccinating skunks before release helps in rabies control.

9.  Myth:  Skunks walking around during the day is a sure sign that they have rabies.  (Fact:  Skunks will come out any time of the day or night when there is food available.  Trying to fool skunks by placing pet food outside during the day does NOT work.  Orphaned baby skunks look for their mother, food and help 24-hours a day until they find what they need.  You would most likely only see them during the day.)

10.  Myth:  You can get rabies if sprayed in the eyes.  (Fact: You can only get rabies from the saliva when bitten.  There are rare cases where one could get rabies from handling the blood of a rabid animal's brain or if a rabid animal was shot in the head and it got into a cut or eyes.)

11.  Myth:  If you are sprayed in the eyes by skunk spray, you will go blind.  (Fact:  This is not true.  There are a couple rare cases where an animal and a human died after being sprayed in the eyes by a skunk, but it was because of the stress from it that caused a heart attack.  The dog was left without being cleaned of the stench and it couldn't handle this.  The man had such a bad heart that any kind of stress would have had the same results.

12.  Myth:  Skunk spray is urine.  (Fact:  It is an acrid yellow oily foamy spray that comes out of a gland that is just inside the anal area.)

13.  Myth:  Skunks spray each other.  (Fact:  Skunks do not spray each other.  They may "whiff" when they are startled, play/fight or mate, but this airs out quickly.)

14.  Myth:  Skunks spray all the time.  (Fact:  If not startled or defending their young, they will rarely spray.  They give plenty of warning signals before spraying.  Their spray is a precious commodity that is saved for only life-threatening situations.  In a perfect situation, a skunk could actually go through life never spraying anything.)

15.  Myth:  Skunks cannot spray unless their back feet are on the ground.  (Fact:  Because skunks rarely spray, this is how these myths were determined.  A skunk can spray when the tail is held down or under, when it is doing a handstand (especially in the case of a spotted skunk), and when being hung by their tail.  They simply choose not to most of the time.)

16.  Myth:  A skunk cannot spray when hung by the tail.  (Fact:  See #15.)

17.  Myth:  A skunk cannot spray when the tail is tucked underneath to hide the anus.  (Fact:  See #15.)

18.  Myth:  Skunks smell.  (Fact:  They are very clean animals and actually smell better than dogs.  It is only what they spray that smells.)

19.  Myth:  Skunks can jump and climb well.  (Fact:  Only the little spotted skunk can.  Striped skunks have limited climbing abilities and don't fall well.  They cannot climb items such as table legs or jump like a cat.  A wild skunk can only get into a garbage can or onto a picnic table if there are bags of garbage piled next to it, or if the benches are next to the table.  To get over a fence, one side of the fence has to have a heavily-foliaged bush next to it or a huge pile of lumber that they can scramble up onto, but then when they get over to the other side, they have to make a long fall and can't get out sometimes.  They don't climb into your attic, chimney or roof.  If you smell a skunk up there, there is a rare chance that it could be a spotted skunk, but more likely that it is an owl that was sprayed while killing a skunk.)

20.  Myth:  Skunks kill chickens.  (Fact:  Skunks cannot chase and catch fast animals such as the mouse, rat, chicken unless it is dead, injured or trapped.  They usually eat the eggs, babies in nests or slow chicks.)

21.  Myth:  Skunks are useless vermin.  (Fact:  Skunks are important to the balance of nature.  They kill all rodents; black widow spiders, rattlesnakes, scorpions; and garden pests such as snails, crickets, gophers, grubs; cockroaches and all other insects.

22.  Myth:  Skunks are polecats.  (Fact:  A polecat is a weasel.  The European polecat is the common household pet, the ferret.)

23  Myth:  Skunks are in the weasel family.  (Fact:  Skunks are no longer considered to be in the mustelid family, but a family of their own.  They never were really "in the weasel family" even when they were considered a mustelid, any more than that they would be in the otter, wolverine, badger, etc. family.  They are now in the mephitid, or mephitidae, family.)

24.  Myth:  Domestic skunks are just wild skunks.  (Fact:  Any animal that is more than three generations removed from the wild is considered domestic, but reputable skunk breeders have been breeding their stock for up to 60 years.)

25.  Myth:  If a domestic skunk escapes from a home, they can survive.  (Fact:  Only wild mothers teach their young how to survive in the wild.  Plus domestic skunks are descented, hence they have no way to protect themselves.)

26.  Myth:  If domestic skunks escape, they will spread disease to the wild skunk populations.  (Fact:  They are rabies free because of breeding, have been inoculated with the rabies vaccine, and are much healthier stock than the wild skunks.)

27.  Myth:  Skunks are nocturnal.  (Fact:  They are crepuscular which means they come out mostly at dusk and dawn.)

 

 

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