Aspen Skunk Rabies Research, Inc

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This was Erica's senior class picture. She had it taken with her beloved pet, Aspen. Aspen died in December of 1998 to prove that he did not have rabies. Had there been an approved rabies vaccine and quarantine period in this country for skunks, Aspen would still be alive and well and brightening the Mills home. You can read Aspen's story on our background page.


When you ask the average American what their thoughts are on skunks you get descriptions like:
"Smelly, rabies carrying, pests."

This statement, with its misconceptions and misinformation, could not be  further from the truth!   In  fact, wild skunks prefer to avoid contact with humans and other animals.  They are very quiet, non-aggressive, solitary creatures, willing to live and let live. It is true that they can spray,  if they feel that they are in danger.  It is also true that if one gets  sprayed by a skunk, they stay "fragrant" for quite some time.  Skunks do not  want to spray, however, and give plenty of warning before doing so.  They  only spray as a very last resort.  Skunks can contract rabies, and so can any other unvaccinated mammal.  They are no more prone to rabies  than any other mammal.

Wild skunks are an important part of our  ecosystem.  They could be called "Nature's Sanitation Engineers".  They rid  the environment of rats, mice, cockroaches, harmful garden pests (snails,  grubs, all insects, gophers, moles), even poisonous animals (rattlesnakes,  black widow spiders, scorpions), and "road kill" (which can cause accidents and spread disease).

It may surprise you to know that skunks are kept as pets in literally thousands of homes across the United States, and that they have become so popular as pets that they are now being imported into other countries to be sold as pets.

While living with a skunk may seem strange to some, people who live with skunks are just as dedicated to their companions as any dog or cat enthusiast is to theirs. It may also surprise you to know that although these unique and beautiful creatures make loving pets, not all states allow them to be kept as pets. Skunks are allowed as pets in the US in less than half of the states, and there are usually special permits required and other regulations that must be followed.

Please do not misunderstand what we just said, however. Even in states where it is legal to keep skunks as pets, if there is ever a question of any kind about a skunk, that skunk will be killed and tested for rabies. This means that if a pet skunk, who has never had a chance to be exposed to rabies should accidentally bite a person while playing (as many pets will, even puppies and kitties), that skunk will be sentenced to death. Remember, Aspen was a domestic skunk who lived in a "legal" state.

The main reason for this is that there is no skunk rabies vaccine approved in the United States, and there is also no quarantine period set up for skunks. The vaccine does exist and it is in use in Canada in the wild population to try to control rabies in the wild. However, it is being used "off label" and is not approved in Canada either. 


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