Special Report filed by AAF Correspondent: Scott TingleyAnimal Attack Files Special Report
from The Star Telegram

      Hurst man kills skunk after it attacks his dog

By Kelly Melhart Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Thursday, October 19, 2000

HURST -- A man killed a skunk with a barbecue spatula after he looked out a window and saw the rabid animal attacking his dog.

The attack occurred about noon Tuesday in the 3100 block of River Bend Drive when the skunk bit a Labrador retriever mix on the nose, officials said.

When the man ran into his back yard, the skunk charged at him, police Sgt. Steve Moore said.

The dog, whose rabies vaccination had lapsed, then went after the skunk, Moore said. The man grabbed a spatula from a nearby grill and killed the intruder, Moore said.

The skunk was the first rabid animal found in Hurst in "many, many, many years," but was the 38th confirmed rabid animal this year in Tarrant County, said Jan Buck, a public health technician with the Texas Department of Health. It is the most rabid animals confirmed in the county since the department began keeping rabies statistics in 1979.

"This year has broken all kinds of records, and I don't want to be around if we ever break this record," Buck said.

Rabies cases in North Texas declined in August. State Health Department officials said the decrease may have been caused by the scorching heat. Animals tend to stay in their dens during hot weather to keep cool.

The numbers may increase now. Typically, spring and fall are peak periods for rabies cases, Buck said.

"I haven't plotted it out, but I wonder if we are just now experiencing our fall peak," she said.

Skunks seem to be walking south into Tarrant County from Denton County, which also has had a record number of rabid animals, Buck said. Denton County has had 93 confirmed rabies cases -- 88 of them skunks -- so far this year. The closest to that record was in 1991, when there were 40 confirmed rabies cases.

The Hurst skunk probably wandered from a creek that runs behind River Bend Drive in a newly developed area of north Hurst, Moore said. Those who live on the street said they have seen several skunks walking through yards, roaming across back porches and spraying pets.

The skunk's body was sent Tuesday to the state Health Department lab in Austin. Buck received a telephone call Wednesday confirming that the skunk was rabid.

The state Health Department has confirmed 30 rabid skunks, seven rabid bats and one rabid raccoon in Tarrant County this year. Last year, eight rabid animals were found in the county, all of them bats.

Officials believe that the mild winter and a good food supply helped skunks to flourish.

The bitten dog's rabies vaccinations expired four months ago, Moore said. It will be placed in quarantine for 90 days, he said.

Buck and Moore urge pet owners to vaccinate their pets and to not let the vaccinations lapse.

"Rabies is not in some other country, it can be in your back yard," Buck said. "Protect yourself and your family by protecting your pets."

© 2000 Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas

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