A skunk found in the middle of a trail at Catalina State Park on Tuesday, Jan. 21 has tested positive for rabies. That morning, a park ranger notified the Pima Animal Care Center of the sick animal, which was found sitting in a trail area heavily trafficked by hikers and people walking their pets. When an animal care officer arrived at about 10:40 a.m., the skunk was still in the path and surrounded by roughly 30 people and many pets.
At this time it is uncertain if any humans or their pets had physical contact with the skunk, and officials do not know how long the animal had been in the area. If you, anyone you were with, or your pet touched or had contact with this skunk, you should notify the Pima County Health Department at (520) 243-7797 immediately so you can receive a risk assessment and recommendations to prevent infection.
Rabies is a life-threatening disease caused by the rabies virus. Humans usually get rabies from a bite, scratch, or other direct physical contact with the saliva or secretion from an infected animal.
It may take a few weeks or even a few years for people to show symptoms after being infected with rabies. However, once someone with rabies starts developing symptoms, that person usually does not survive. Early symptoms may include: headache, a high temperature, irritability and sometimes itching or pain where the contact occurred.
The best protection against rabies is avoidance of risk. Rabies can occur in skunks, bats and other wildlife. Be alert for changes in typical animal behavior. Use caution if you see nocturnal animals during the day or encounter animals that seem to have lost their fear of humans or appear to have paralysis of the limbs. In 2013, eight skunks tested positive for rabies in Pima County, three of which were from the general area of Catalina State Park.
Remember that if you see a skunk, bat or any other wildlife on the ground, do not touch it. Please immediately notify the Pima Animal Care Center at 520-243-5900 or the Arizona Game and Fish Department at 1-800-352-0700.