JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri conservation officials are urging people to be cautious around skunks that soon will be emerging from winter shelters.
Skunks are one of the two primary carriers of the rabies virus in Missouri. Encounters increase during skunks' mating season, which starts in late February and continues through March. Males can travel five miles in one night.
Missouri health officials last year reported finding 12 rabid skunks and 16 rabid bats with cases reported in 14 counties. Rabies is transmitted through the animals' saliva and usually occurs after a bite. It also can enter the body through an open wound or mucous membranes. Treatment should start within days.
Symptoms of rabies in skunks include unusual behavior such as being active during the day, aggressiveness and seizures.