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Posted on Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 12:07 p.m.

3rd rabid skunk of 2011 found on west side of Ann Arbor

By Paula Gardner

Health officials received confirmation this week that a skunk found on Ann Arbor's west side in late November had rabies.

That incident makes a total of three rabid skunks found in Ann Arbor so far this year. By comparison, an average of five can be found statewide in a typical year.


Wildlife experts urge caution if you see a skunk acting strangely, and they encourage people to get pets vaccinated against the disease.

From the Grand Rapids Press

"Three rabid sunks within a small vicinity is a concern and a reason for caution," said Tanya Hilgendorf, executive director of the Humane Society of Huron Valley.

"Rabies is very serious," she said. "It's always a fatal disease unless you're vaccinated or get immediate treatment."

The latest skunk was reported on Winstead, where a property owner spotted the dead animal.

The Humane Society picked up the animal. It doesn't routinely test for rabies, Hilgendorf said.

"We decided to do it because of how sick it looked," she said.

The Humane Society — which is in the midst of renewing its contract with Washtenaw County for animal control services, which likely will accompany a funding cut — now plans to test more wildlife for the disease.

"Usually county will only pay for testing if there’s been direct exposure, but we're going to start testing more," Hilgendorf said.

The latest positive rabies test follows two incidents in September that each resulted in positive rabies tests on skunks.

The first was on Arborview near Miller Nature Area. The second was also on the city's west side.

So far in 2011, three bats also have been found with rabies, according to the Washtenaw County Health Department.

Calls for injured wildlife will drop off during winter, Hilgendorf said.

Still, she urges people on the west side of Ann Arbor to make sure their pets are vaccinated. In one of the rabies cases, a dog that had up-to-date shots tangled with an aggressive skunk. In the most recent incident, Hilgendorf said, a dog could have had contact with the carcass.

"People will stay away from skunks because they don't want to get sprayed," Hilgendorf said.

Dogs, however, will put themselves at risk - and they can spread the disease if they're not vaccinated.

Fatalities from rabies are rare, but the sheer number of incidents within a few miles makes the skunk situation a concern.

"We want to make sure people on the west side of Ann Arbor are aware and extra-cautious," Hilgendorf said.

See county health facts about rabies and a rabies fact sheet.


Old Salt

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 3:17 a.m.

Thank you for letting us know the area where this last rabid skunk was found

j schneider

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

And the County Comissioners are considering cuts in funding to the Humane Society? I guess I'll call THEM to pick up the next rabid rodent I see.

ralph mcgraw

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 8:37 p.m.

The "west side of Ann Arbor"? Wow, that certainly narrows it down.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 6:51 p.m.

Rabid skunk? Better get the Board of Commissioners to put an RFP out so we can get that taken care of!


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 5:13 p.m.

Oh no 3 in 11 months. Forget the rapist lets get the skunks!


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

Pardon me, allow me to clarify, not the homeless anything can happen to anyone, lets say the 18 to 40 year old drunks and junkies that beg for money they didnt earn and litter the streets with themselves. I cant believe people want action evicting skunks that have been revealed 3 in 11 months but no action needed when it comes to bums of Ann Arbor.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

I had a skunk show up in my yard and perform an old Vaudeville number.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:44 p.m.

We need an ordinance addressing this issue!


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

Why are you not giving the location of the second rabid skunk?

Paula Gardner

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

I requested it from the Washtenaw County Health Department yesterday when I realized our previous story didn't include it (it should have). The health dept. expressed concern about privacy, but I'm following up today since it seems to clearly be public information.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

wounder if the art commission should be tested. they are acting funny!


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 12:38 p.m.

This is sad. Skunks are really very cute and very sweet. They never bother a person if you don't bother them.

Jeanne Adwani

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 11:58 a.m.

Hi.. Drunk like skunk over here on Western St. off of Maple 3 weeks/month ago. during the day walking done the sidewalk. Definitely not ok. clearly there is a problem. anyone else see any over in here?


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 5:09 a.m.

I just read this article and now I'm concerned: We live on Arlene St on the West side and just yesterday in the middle of the day I pulled into my driveway to see a skunk walking in the middle of our driveway next to our house. Slowly he wanders into our neighbor's back yard, and I notice in the snow these loopy aimless trails that the skunk had obviously made earlier. We have a dog, and we will be getting her updated on her rabies TOMORROW. There was some street construction two houses down and I had figured the jack hammers had woken up the hibernating skunk, but now reading the rabies symptoms, I strongly think it was rabid. We live on Arlene St near Ross St.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 4:21 a.m.

My sister found a skunk circling around a parked car's tire, on Belmar St. a few months ago...therefore, its driver couldn't move the vehicle and called HSHV. HSHV came and took the skunk away. We suspected it was a rabid skunk, and that same day, we found a dead squirrel on the easement nearby.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 2:30 a.m.

Although skunks are territorial, it should be kept in mind that males will wander 1-1/2 miles per night in search of mates. And the females are only a little less wandering. So, there's your explanation of how rabies can spread among these animals across this town - in a night or two. Exterminating all the skunks in this town is a "rather optimistic" idea. The cost would be -- much greater than Gov. Snyder would ever allow. If you covered this town with 50 tracking dogs, there'd still be some skunks undetected after the campaign ended. Live with it - and be glad they aren't wolverines (they are related you know).

Ann English

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:57 a.m.

Chatterbox should be happy about the fact that not only do the birds leave as winter approaches, so do the yellow jackets, mosquitoes, moths and ants.

Ron Granger

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:48 a.m.

West side you say? I suspect an East Lansing connection.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:15 a.m.

It is irresponsible to use several hundred words describing a situation as dangerous, and then fail to tell readers where the danger lies. The west side of Ann Arbor is a big place. Skunks are small animals. Where were they found? We all know what the animal looks like; run a map with markings on it to illustrate a story like this. Sheesh.

william bond

Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 9:32 p.m.

I agree with XMO one must be extremely careful by the FEMA trailer as they tend to congregate there especially early in the week...


Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 8:58 p.m.

The skunk was found on the 1700 block of WINSTED--North of Scio. I was the person who called the HSHV to report it. It was NOT DEAD. It was in my neighbors front yard swaying and acting neurologic-it was around 8:10ish in the morning, I think it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.


Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.

I thought this was about my ex! Glad its' jsut a four footed skunk!


Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 8:12 p.m.

Perhaps the city should try to eliminate skunks from city limits. I am sure they do serve useful functions, but this is more than outweighed by their negative aspects, their tremendous stench when they release, and now the risk of rabies. A rabid skunk actually bit a resident on the west side this fall. After weighing the costs and benefits of skunks, I believe it is proper and prudent to eliminate them


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 5:34 p.m.

Perhaps City Council could come up with a new ordinace banning them from the city. Putting "no skunk" signs up all around the perimeter of Ann Arbor should help in case any out-of-town skunks try to enter without knowing our new law.


Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 8:38 p.m.

No Chatter, that is a silly exaggeration. I am, of course, only talking about skunks. Again, weigh the costs and befits of skunks.


Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 8:35 p.m.

Wait, what about extreme political right and left wingers?


Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 8:25 p.m.

Yes Bobby John and while we are at could we also elimiate squirrels, mice, rats and other annoying creatures. Stray cats and unleashed dogs come to mind also bats and mosquitoes, yellow jackets,ants,moths and any type of spider and maybe the team that is carrying out this useful activity could have a correlative costume to wear, say a uniform in seasonal hues to reflect the time of year for their performance oftheir much needed activities. Let's get some millage going for this one!


Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 8:10 p.m.

They also will come out during the winter to empty their scent glands so that's why you'll smell them occasionally in the winter as well.

Old Salt

Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 7:10 p.m.

As a west side resident I would like to know exactlty in what area of the west side the rabid animals were found,perhaps give the area within several blocks..It would help us west side resident to know..

Ann English

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 2:05 a.m.

"West side" seems to encompass all of Seventh Street, for starters. It ends at Miller and its other end comes rather close to Winsted. That area from Sunset to Miller, Spring Street to Brooks Street, was where several family musical groups performed on their porches and front yards in the summer of 2010, and videotaped for us by I don't want rabid skunk appearances in that area to discourage future summer musical performances, free for people on foot to see and hear.


Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 7:01 p.m.

If the skunks are in the historic west side section, must they meet historic specifications? (If not, I'm sure the historical group will have plenty to say about it.)


Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 6:55 p.m.

I saw some two legged skunks at the last city council meeting acting strangely, does that count?

Lynn Liston

Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 6:01 p.m.

@ David, skunks spend more time sleeping this time of year, but since they don't truly hibernate, they will occasionally come out of their dens, especially on warmer days. You may see them wandering around during the day or night. I live near a woods and see skunks in the daytime often. If the skunk is acting ill, staggering, being aggressive pr salivating or foaming from the mouth, then I would call Animal Control.


Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

David: Skunks here on the west side have been seen outside in the daylight for a few years now. Not all the time, but frequently enough that it is no longer surprising. Joe: Skunks are not true hibernators, rather they go dormant for long stretches of time in the cold. And tho they are often scarce, esp in deep winter, they can still make occasional forays out.


Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 5:53 p.m.

@ David, from New York State Wildlife Control: An animal may be infected with rabies for a long time before it shows symptoms, anywhere from two weeks to many months. (The incubation period is usually two to three weeks.) Different species show different signs of the disease. Expect variations within the same species, few animals show all of the signs of rabies. Subtle signs are easily missed. You can't tell whether or not an animal is rabid just by its behavior. Other diseases, such as distemper or toxoplasmosis, can cause similar symptoms. The only way to prove an animal is rabid is to test its brain tissue in a laboratory. Rabies symptoms you may see in wild animals: 1. unprovoked aggression ("furious" rabies). Some animals may attack anything that moves, or even inanimate objects. 2. unusual friendliness ("dumb" rabies). 3. animal may stumble, fall, appear disoriented or uncoordinated, or wander aimlessly. 4. paralysis, often beginning in the hind legs or throat. Paralysis of the throat muscles can cause the animal to bark, whine, drool, choke, or froth at the mouth. 5. vocalizations ranging from chattering to shrill screams. 6. nocturnal animals may become unusually active during the day (remember, some daytime activity is normal, especially when nocturnal animals are feeding their young). 7. raccoons walk as if they're on very hot pavement. Skunks, raccoons, foxes, and dogs usually display furious rabies. Bats often display dumb rabies, and may be found on the ground, unable to fly. This can be very risky for children, who are more likely to handle wild animals than adults. In domestic animals, rabies should be suspected if you see a sudden change in disposition, failure to eat or drink, or if the animal becomes paralyzed or runs into objects.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 5:37 p.m.

With the exception of #6, these symptoms strongly resemble those of many humans who've had too much to drink. Perhaps the skunks on the westside of Ann Arbor have been imbibing?


Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 5:57 p.m.

Good post. You educated me!

David Bardallis

Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 5:31 p.m.

Would seeing a skunk out during the day constitute "acting strangely"? I saw two different skunks in my yard during the day within a week of each other, and I can't ever remember seeing skunks during the daytime before.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:52 a.m.

We had a skunk in our backyard last week during the day who tried to make friends with our dog and follow him inside the house. We live on Newport on the Westside. My wife called HSHV and was told it might be the next day before they could look into it. They called my wife the next day and told her that a nearby pet skunk had gotten loose and was back home. A skunk out during the day might not be rabid but it is best to be careful, keep your distance and call it in.


Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 5:44 p.m.

Yes, this could very well be the case. You should contact the Washtenaw County Sheriff's office, or the Huron Vally Humane Society. If they see a reason they will set out traps. This time of year they should also be hibernating, and if you even see a skunk out at night you might want to call them to make sure. Rabid skunks can prove fatal to your personal pets, especially dogs, because they are prone to attack skunks because of their odder. A skunk may seem aggressive to a dog too, and that will make the dog defend itself, and thus being the case, it will need to get shots anyway. The shots are expensive, and if it goes unnoticed then the dog will become rabid, and may attack the owners, or some other unaware person or child, or another pet for that matter.