There’s an increasing possibility your neighborhood stinks.
It could also be getting more dangerous.
That’s because the number of skunks visiting Pierre and Fort Pierre is on the rise, bringing with them not only their trademark smell, but the high possibility of rabies.
The animals are moving closer to town looking for some food and especially water, said Chris Gross, Pierre animal control officer.
“There are quite a few in town because of this hot weather,” he said.
Gross started as the Pierre Police Department animal control officer in June and has dispatched more than 60 skunks in that time.
Gross has all of his traps out and the calls keep coming. He said there have been so many requests for skunk trapping that there is a waiting list.
Brad Rathbun, Stanley County sheriff, said skunks have also been a problem on the west side of the river.
Lon Kightlinger, South Dakota state epidemiologist, said skunks are more likely to carry rabies in South Dakota than other animals.
From 2002-2011 about 62 percent of all the skunks tested for rabies had it.
“To me, when I hear people have a skunk, everybody else thinks they are going to get sprayed and it is going to stink,” he said. “But for me, the stink is temporary, but exposure to rabies, that is much more serious. That is a fatal disease.”
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control lists skunks as the second most frequently reported rabid wildlife animal in the United States in a 2010 report on rabies.
The good news is despite a high frequency of rabies in skunks, no skunks have tested positive for rabies in Hughes County this year.
However, several other counties in the state have had positive tests.
In past 10 years, 12 animals were determined to be rabid in Hughes County.
“Over 60 percent of the skunks that are tested in South Dakota are rabid,” Kightlinger said. “So the rule of thumb is if you are bitten by a skunk and the skunk runs away you need rabies shots. There is no second-guessing that.”
Rabies is also a worry for animal control.
“That is the reason we destroy the skunk,” Gross said. “We don’t destroy them because of the smell. It is because of the rabies.”
There haven’t been any reports of people or animals being bitten or scratched, Gross said. However, there have been a few dogs that were sprayed.
Raccoons, and to a lesser extent, possums have also moved into town, Gross said.
Kightlinger also warned about rabies in bats.
About 3 percent of bats tested in South Dakota in the last 10 years have tested positive for rabies.