By: Lisa Viviani Goris
Something stinks on campus lately, and it’s not just the backed-up traffic on the loop road.
Black and white striped, furry, creatures have been spotted on campus. They are skunks!
While CSI students are no strangers to wildlife, they have been a bit frightened by the latest critters on campus.
Ivonia Byer, a BSW student, has spotted more than one of them. She described a recent skunk encounter, saying, “I got so scared when I saw one. I thought it was going to spray me. Luckily, it went about its business and didn’t notice me.”
Certainly, we all hope to be as lucky as Ivonia. While students may be accustomed to seeing deer, squirrels, turkeys, peacocks and the occasional rat, skunks are nocturnal, so seeing one during daytime hours is unusual.
According to Sciencing.com, a typical skunk waits for night to start foraging for food, so a skunk sighting during daylight should be a warning to all to stay away.
Normal daytime behavior for skunks revolves around hiding in their den and sleeping.
Lucia Rossi, an MSW student, witnessed a skunk being chased by public safety while working on campus.
“I was leading a tour for a class of children around the campus for the CUNY Explorers program, and all of a sudden all the kids started yelling ‘a skunk! it’s a skunk!’” she said.
“We all stopped to take pictures and watched as two public safety officers chased away the skunk off of campus– one on his segway.”
When public safety was asked how they are handling the skunk situation on campus, they declined to comment.
“I think there is an entire family of skunks on campus because my friends have shown me pictures and they all look different,” said Rossi.
According to an article written by the Staten Island Advance in 2015, “Skunks, despite their reputation, have been seen on the South Shore for around 20 years without making too much of a stink.”
This means it’s very possible that is where they migrated from.
While there are four species of skunk in North America, New York State is home to the majority of the widely-known striped skunk. The three other types of skunk are the eastern spotted skunk, the hooded skunk and the hog-nosed skunk.
The average size of a skunk is 20”-30” long and can weigh anywhere from six to ten pounds. Unfortunately, in the wild, skunks have a short lifespan of two to four years.
New York’s striped skunk has been a protected species under the Environmental Conservation Law since the late 1800’s.
Striped skunks’ white fur can be easily dyed black to give a fur coat a uniform, glossy shine, and it has been in the best interest of commerce to limit the seasons hunters can kill this particular skunk breed.
In fact, in North America, hunting season for striped skunks is limited.
According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, “New York State hunting and trapping regulation guides remind hunters and trappers that the striped skunk is a valuable fur bearing resource. The regulations allow only a limited, open harvest season. This type of regulatory protection has been successful. The striped skunk is abundant in New York and its populations are secure.”
Although they might look friendly, students should be wary of the dangers of rabies.
So, what does a rabid skunk look like anyway? Well, the typical warning signs of a rabid skunk include excessive drooling, drunken movements and behaving oddly, as in seemingly friendly behavior, or allowing you to touch it.
What many may not be aware of is rabies in skunks can take two forms. The first is considered “dumb” rabies and, as noted above, leaves a skunk unaware of humans and drunk looking. The second type is referred to as “furious” rabies in which skunks become aggressive toward other animals, and even humans.
If you are bitten by a skunk or any other animal you suspect of being infected with the rabies virus, you must seek medical attention.
Instructions on the Department of Health website state, “If you have been bitten, scratched or have had contact with the saliva of an animal that you believe is rabid, wash the wound immediately and call your doctor.”
Interestingly, if you reside in a county outside of New York City, you must call your county health agency immediately to determine where you should receive treatment. In fact, that treatment may not be covered if you don’t call first for authorization.
County health agencies are also responsible for managing animal bites and exposure of domestic animals to known or suspected rabid animals.
For Staten Islanders, our county health agency telephone number is 646-632-6074 during business hours, and 212-POISONS (764-7667) thereafter.