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Are village skunks afflicted with deadly distemper?

— Fitch did some research and found reports of skunks in Michigan believed to be suffering from distemper, a highly contagious and deadly disease. In 2008, more than five dozen skunks are believed to have succumbed to canine distemper in Shasta County in Northern California.

It’s bad enough having a pet sprayed by a skunk, but having a pet contract distemper or rabies can jeopardize its very life.

Carcasses need testing

Canine distemper primarily causes inflammation in an animal’s nervous and respiratory systems. While the virus poses no threat to human health, dog owners should vaccinate their dogs against distemper and keep them away from wild animals.

When Fitch determined that the skunk circling around her yard was likely suffering from distemper, she called town of Salina animal control. “Then the police came,” Fitch reported, “although by time they arrived we didn’t know where the skunk was anymore. It had headed down the street toward the woods. The officer was prepared to shoot it, but that wasn’t necessary. We believe it went off and died.”

A few months before the incident on Hiawatha Trail, Liverpool Police officers shot and killed two skunks which had been behaving strangely in village yards in broad daylight. The mayor said efforts to have the carcasses tested by county or state health officials proved fruitless. Taxpayers deserve better, but that’s another story…

Because distemper is so highly contagious, Fitch surmised that the virus may be spreading through the village’s ever-growing skunk population. Until county or state health and wildlife officials show more interest in this problem, residents will be left to their suspicions and speculations. Meanwhile, the repulsive animal aroma continues chasing villagers indoors every summer.

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