Do all skunks carry rabies?

It’s a common misconception that all skunks carry rabies. This myth probably had its start during a rabies outbreak in the 1800s that started in skunks and spread to dogs and trappers who got bitten while killing them.

We’ve come a long way since then, both in the prevention of rabies and in our understanding of it. There’s no reason to kill skunks because of outdated rabies fears!

It’s true that skunks can sometimes have rabies. Believe it or not, that’s true for any mammal, including squirrels and rabbits! While skunks are a more likely to have rabies than some species, only a very small number of skunks are actually infected with the rabies virus.

A skunk can’t transmit rabies to a person or animal unless the skunk is actually infected with rabies. And even then, rabies isn’t transmitted by simply existing on the same property— you would have to actually be bitten by the skunk or otherwise directly exposed to its fresh saliva (like through an open wound). If your pets are vaccinated, they are not at risk of catching rabies from a skunk, either— plus, they’re likely to stay away due to the smell.

It’s always wise to give wild animals space, but there’s no need to kill a healthy-looking skunk. Healthy skunks help to control rats, mice, hornets, grubs, and other pests, and are an important part of our native ecosystem. Don’t let unfounded fears keep you from enjoying the benefits that a skunk neighbor has to offer.

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