According to the Centers for Disease Control and Infection website:
Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.
The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms. Read more at the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/
There are 12 species of skunks, which are sometimes referred to as polecats. Skunks range in size from about 15″ in length up to over 36″ in length and weigh from 1 – 18 pounds. Skunk colorations are blacks, whites and cream colors. Skunks will eat anything (omnivorous) and are most active during the hours of dusk and dawn (crepuscular). Skunks are almost always solitary creatures, except during the mating season and when living together helps diminish the effects of cold weather. Skunks live in dens or burrows, which they dig, and they are more active during night hours than day hours.
Skunks are most notorious for the smell which they can emit at will. The odor is carried by a liquid that is produced in glands near the anus of the skunk. The liquid is a combination of sulfur-based chemicals, and the smell is potent enough to drive off even the largest, most aggressive attackers. The liquid is also capable of causing skin and eye irritations and damage. Skunks can squirt the liquid up to about 10′. The liquid is a defense system, and is not used for the acquisition of food.
Skunks have formidable teeth, and are capable of inflicting serious bite wounds. Since skunks use their odiferous defensive spray sparingly, they will frequently bite aggressors such as cats and dogs. These bites can transmit the deadly rabies virus.
In rural settings, skunks are drawn to areas with an abundance of small rodents, such as mice and rats. They are also drawn to poultry coops and will eat both the eggs and the poultry. A single skunk can decimate a poultry coop in one night. Skunks will often kill far more poultry than they will eat in a single meal. Skunks have been known to kill as many as 30 adult birds in a coop in a single night.
In towns, skunks are attracted to refuse, as well as small rodents. Skunks will knock over trash containers to get at garbage, much the same way that raccoons do. Once a skunk discovers an abundant food source, such as a trash container that is refilled regularly, it will dig a burrow close by – frequently under a house foundation, near the roots of a large tree or under an out-building.
According to the Montana Field Guide website, there are two species of skunk in Montana:
Striped Skunk – Mephitis mephitis and the Western Spotted Skunk – Spilogale gracilis
Photos are available at the website. http://fieldguide.mt.gov/displaySpecies.aspx?family=Mephitidae
If you are not properly trained or experienced, it is highly advisable that you contact a state or local animal control agency or a professional pest control service to eliminate a problem skunk. Rabies is a potentially deadly disease, and if you should be sprayed by a skunk, the stench is beyond description and removing the odor is most problematic.
REMOVING SKUNK ODORS
There is no simple or absolute method for eliminating the utterly foul, often debilitating smell of skunk spray. Many myths regarding the removal of skunk smell have been propagated over time. These myths are usually the result of someone dealing with a very minor skunk scent, versus a full on spray. If a skunk sprays a person or dog or area, there is an oily, off color liquid left that will stain fur, skin, clothing, walls, etc. Its smell will last for weeks. Removing this and eliminating the odor is very difficult!
The following recipe comes to us from Suzanne at Steadman’s Lawn & Garden department – many Miles City residents report that this recipe WORKS! Place the following ingredients in a bucket and thoroughly mix them together: One quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup of fresh baking soda and one teaspoonful of a liquid dish washing soap. Use this mix within an hour – discard any unused mix as it loses its potency quickly and will not work properly.
The above mixture can be used on pets, but be sure to keep it away from eyes, open wounds and ears. Hydrogen peroxide has a bleaching effect, so be mindful of materials that you use it on. Spraying the solution on will not do the trick. Some scrubbing will be required, and often more than one application is necessary. Wear rubber gloves and eye protection when using this solution.
GET MEDICAL ATTENTION
If someone is bitten by a skunk, seek immediate medical attention. If your pet is bitten by a skunk, take it to your veterinarian. It will help if you know where the skunk is living so that authorities can capture it and test it for rabies.