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Tuolumne County Health Department Warns About Rabid Skunks

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Sonora, CA — During the first five months of this year, there have already been eight confirmed cases of skunks carrying rabies in Tuolumne County.

The Public Health Department reports that it far exceeds the average for a given year.

There was also a spike in rabies cases last year, with a total of eight. However, concerning to health officials is that the first one in 2018 was reported in June, and most were later in the year, during September.

Health Officer, Dr. Bob Bernstein says, “Rabies is a very serious virus spread by the bite of, or contact with saliva of an infected animal, causing severe damage to the central nervous system, and is almost always fatal.”

All eight rapid skunks were noted to have made contact with one or more pet dogs immediately prior to death. Dogs were observed carrying the carcass, actively killing the skunk, or approaching and sniffing the skunk. Given those interactions with pets, it shows that the skunks are not afraid to move into residential neighborhoods.

Over the past couple of years, the skunks have been found in various areas throughout the county, ranging everywhere from Tuolumne, to Jamestown, to Tuttletown and Chinese Camp.

It remains unclear what is causing the spike, as local officials say the number of cases in surrounding counties, like Calaveras, Mariposa, Amador and Stanislaus remain very low.

The health department had to go back to 2001 to find a number that was much higher, with 12 that year.

Dr. Bernstein is encouraging everyone to ensure that all pets are up to date on vaccinations, whether it be dogs, cats or horses.

In addition, never touch or feed wildlife. Make sure that outdoor pets have food off the ground, and keep household garbage out of reach of animals. Animals acting unusual should be reported to Tuolumne County Animal Control at 209-694-2730. For after hour emergencies, the sheriff’s office dispatch can be reached at 209-533-5815.

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