Contributed by: Valerie Mellema, Gray Horse Publishing
Skunks - while they tend to not really bother most people and they tend to do their business at night, they do carry disease that could be potentially dangerous for your farm. When I lived in Amarillo, I remember walking into the barn one night to find a skunk eating cat food with the cats. You can bet that I fed my horse and got out of there as quickly as I could without causing a stink! (Sorry, couldn’t help the pun.)
Skunks on the farm, however, can cause problems for horses. While most horse farms will tolerate a skunk or two, they are the main carriers of rabies. Although most horses are vaccinated for rabies and horses being bitten by a skunk may not be fatal, they are an intermediate host for the disease Sarcocystis neurona, which causes equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM).
EPM is a neurological disease that causes crippling and can also be fatal. Skunks cause the disease-causing protozoan and, while they cannot transmit it directly to horses, they can get it from opossums. Opossums feed on dead skunks and then defecate on hay or feed. The horse eats the contaminated feed or water and then ingests the disease-causing sporocysts.
Aside from EPM, rabies is a threat to your pets and family. You’re better safe than sorry when it comes to removing skunks from your farm. Professional trappers will remove skunks from your farm and relocate them away from human contact. Skunks seen frequently during the day should be dealt with, as they are most likely carriers of rabies.
Check with your local feed store or county extension agent for information on wildlife relocators.
Valerie Mellema is the owner of Gray Horse Publishing & Marketing.
She has been in the equine industry for over 25 years and is a published author of multiple horse care books. She is also the owner of Mellema Thoroughbreds, a thoroughbred breeding farm. She shows her OTTB, Mistic Gray, in Hunter/Jumpers.
Visit her website at www.grayhorsepublishing.com