Rabid skunks in Shelburne

According to Michaela Ryan, owner of New Family Farm on Harbor Road, she noticed a skunk on her farm’s property mid-day on Friday, and dutifully called State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Robert Johnson and the Shelburne Police. “I had received notification that a rabid skunk had been found on Shelburne Farms two days before,” Ryan shared, saying that the earlier notification had heightened her awareness to the issue. That, and she knew it was atypical to find a healthy skunk out in the middle of the day. Upon sighting the animal, which showed no sign of aggression, she contacted Shelburne Dispatch, who sent an officer to investigate. According to Police Chief Jim Warden, “our officers responded to New Village Farm and after killing the skunk, transported it to the health lab in Burlington.” Warden commented that Ryan had reacted exactly as is recommended. “We probably have three to four confirmed cases of rabies in town per year. People often want to pick up these animals because they are often docile – and that’s where trouble starts,” Warden explained. Rabid animals, which in the past have locally included raccoons, foxes, and bats, should never be handled other than by police or a health officer.

When asked about the two occurrences involving skunks in Shelburne last week, health official Johnson offered, “it isn’t uncommon to have a cluster of rabies cases in an active area depending on the wildlife population, food supply, and interactions with domestic animals and people.” He went on to say that more cases are expected in Chittenden County this year, and urged residents to make note that the State’s Rabies Hotline can be reached by calling (800) 472-2437 (1-800-4-Rabies).

Once confirmation was received that the skunk was indeed rabid, Ryan set to the task of vaccinating her five sows and dozen or so piglets as a precautionary measure.

For more information on rabies, its prevalence in Vermont, and what steps to take if you are bitten by an animal, go to http://healthvermont.gov/prevent/rabies/Rabies_fact.aspxRabies Hotline: (800) 472-2437 (1-800-4-Rabies)

How do you protect

yourself against rabies?

• Do not try to touch or pick up wild animals or strays, even baby animals.

• Do not try to feed them or make them into pets.

• Make sure that all family pets get rabies shots and keep shots up-to-date. Vaccines start protecting dogs and cats about two weeks to a month after they get the shot.

• Report unknown or strangely behaving animals to your town’s animal control officer and police department.

• Do not make your yard inviting to wild animals. Practice good birdfeeder etiquette. Secure trash, including recyclables.

• Fasten trash can lids tightly.

• Raccoon-proof your compost.

• Feed pets inside the house.

• Keep pets indoors at night. If they are out during the day, keep them on a leash or in a closed space. Pets that roam free are more likely to get rabies.

• Wear protective gloves when handling a pet that has been involved with a wild or stray animal.

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