© 2024
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Surge of Rabid Skunks Hits Larimer County, Fort Collins

Kevin Collins
Flickr – Creative Commons

Health officials in Larimer County are sounding the alarm after seeing a recent spike in the number of rabid skunks.

As many as 17 infected skunks have been found since May, most in Fort Collins. Bats carrying the rabies virus have been a problem for years, but the influx of skunks poses new risks.

“When you have an animal that runs around on the ground as opposed to a small animal that flies, there’s much more likely to be encounters with pets and livestock,” says Larimer County Health Department Director Dr. Adrienne LeBailly.

A skunk is the probable culprit in the rabies death of at least one bison in a Colorado State University herd. Two others have died, although rabies has not yet been confirmed. The infected skunks have slowly made their way to Larimer County from the Eastern plains, and are now here to stay.

“It may not be quite as explosive as it is right now in terms of cases,” LeBailly says, “but it will never go away. It’s just something that we’ll have to live with, like we’ve lived with rabies in bats.”

Living with land-roaming skunk rabies means getting pets and livestock vaccinated, or risk death or expensive quarantine. To protect the herd, Colorado State University has proceeded to vaccinate their remaining 45 buffalo. The Health Department urges pet owners to do the same, and not to approach any wild animals, even those that appear tame.

I am covering science stories at KUNC this summer as a AAAS Mass Media Fellow, a program that matches scientists with news outlets so that they can try their hand at translating science to regular folks. My normal day job is as a graduate student at Yale University, doing immunology research with Dr. David Schatz. Previously, I graduated from Haverford College, majoring in English and biology.
Related Content