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Is it Safe to Handle a Skunk with Bare Hands?

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No wild animal should be handled with bare hands, and least of all is the skunk (also called polecat). In any case, it is not an easy feat to handle a skunk with bare hands because if it so much as senses a threat – like an approaching human, it would release its characteristic offensive, smelly spray to keep them at bay.

It is particularly dangerous to touch or even be around skunks because they are the most common carriers of the deadly rabies virus. Rabid skunks are usually fearless, as against healthy ones that run from humans. They should be avoided especially if they don’t seem afraid of you or they look mangy or sickly. If you observe a skunk around your house that displays these attributes, it is advisable to put a call through to your animal services or wildlife department for professional help.

Any attempt to touch them could result in bites and the most common mode of rabies virus transmission is through the bite and virus-containing saliva of an infected host.

Other diseases that can infect humans from close proximity to skunks are leptospirosis and Baylisascaris columnaris, an intestinal roundworm. In addition to these, distemper, canine hepatitis, fleas, ticks, lice, and mites can cause health issues for pets as well.

One of the few instances where you may need to handle a skunk is if one or more of them has taken up residence on your property and you have decided to live-trap it. Live skunk trapping is one of the most effective ways to get rid of a skunk infestation but most individuals are wary of getting sprayed during the process. However, it is very possible to trap and remove a skunk without getting sprayed. Such a trapped skunk is conveyed to another location and released, and a common way to protect yourself is to drape a thick cloth over the cage before moving close to it.

While handling a caged skunk, take adequate precautions by wearing thick rubber gloves and avoid holding the cage by the rungs accessible to the skunk. Read more about What equipment is needed to trap a skunk?

Go back to the Skunk Removal page, or learn tips by reading How to get rid of skunks.

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