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Skunks begin proliferating but no rabies cases found

Striped skunks are more prone to contracting rabies than any other Minnesota mammal. So far no rabies cases have been confirmed.

In the ongoing tussles of skunks versus dogs, there are no winners.

But when those skunks are rabid, the playing field is tilted.

Employees at Ark Animal Hospital in Park Rapids were somewhat concerned recently when a local dog owner brought his pets in after a skirmish with a skunk, then reported to them his findings that there are many cases of rabies already in the region.

That prompted veterinary assistant Tricia Hase to call the Enterprise to report this possibly alarming trend.

DNR wildlife technician Tom Stursa said he's heard of no such cases to date.

"This is a little bit early for that," he said of rabies outbreaks. "It's usually a mid-summer thing. If they're getting them it's news to me."

But Stursa said skunks are venturing out into the open, so there's more contact with humans and pets being reported.

"Skunks are coming out," he said. "It's spring. They probably got wet where they're sleeping and they're moving around more in the warmer weather."

The DNR Web site indicates striped skunks are more prone to contracting rabies than any other mammals, but the site lists no reported cases to date in 2009

Hase said she heard of only a couple cases last year and said even if the tales are unfounded, it's a good time to remind pet owners to keep their dogs' vaccinations current.

In the pet owner's case all turned out well. "The dogs are OK," Hase said. "The skunk's not but the dogs are."