Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - June 25, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
4 LETHBRIDGE iuesday, June 25, i9.4 South skunk survey combats dreaded disease By RIC SWIHART, Herald Staff Writer BOW ISLAND Five diagnosed cases of rabies this year has two provincial government departments scurrying to find more instances of the dreaded disease and to learn more about it. Two government representatives, one working through the Alberta department of lands and forests, the division of fish and wildlife, and one with the department of agriculture, are conducting a thorough skunk population survey in the County of Forty Mile Three rabid skunks were found m the county this spring. Dwayne Pipella of Edmonton, wildlife technician, told The Herald skunks are the main target of a trapping campaign because they are one of the foremost carriers of rabies. The skunk is also the type of animal which could come in contact with other animals, passing on the virus disease. The two government departments are combining their research this time to gather more information. Both departments get data on each skunk found. In the case of the department of fish and wildlife, officials want to determine the skunk-rabies relationship to better understand both segments. Mr. Pipella said he checks the habitat of the skunks, the sex and age ratios of animals diagnosed rabid and the movement of the animals. Alan Norris of Lethbridge, assistant fieldman for the regional plant industry division of the department of agriculture, said he is mainly concerned with the actual disease. If a rabid skunk is found, a complete depopulation of skunks is conducted within a three-mile radius of the location of the rabid animal. The skunk survey is being done a township of land at a time. Mr. Pipella and Mr. Norris divide equipment and set out on separate ways. Traps are located at suspected locations, checks are made with farmers in the area about skunk movement and return trips are made to check for possible catches. Conibear traps, designed for humane trapping, are used. Once an animal is found in the trap, it is tagged with a special number corresponding to a number on file containing data on the location, sex, measurements and cleanliness, including fleas and ticks. The head is then removed and bagged for shipment to the federal Animal Diseases Research Institute in Lethbridge for testing. The ovaries are removed from all females caught. By checking lesions in the ovaries, the technician can determine how many baby skunk, might be in the area If any, they are also caught, killed and inspected for rabies. The disected ovaries are then put in a solution of formalin, a preservative which also kills rabies virus. The jar is labelled with the number on the ear tag in the skunk. The rest of the evisera (entrails) are then removed and bagged for shipment to Edmonton for further inspection and research. Mr. Pipella said this work not only affords research data for his department, it gives added protection for the general public John Gunson, wildlife biologist in charge of problem wildlife management for the fish and wildlife division, said Alberta's 18-mile wide skunk depopulation zone on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border has been effective. He said skunks have been unsuccessful in penetrating the zone, which reaches from Cold Lake in the north to the Montana border on the south, except in a region south of the South Saskatchewan River. Because they have been able to penetrate the zone from the Saskatchewan side, rabies has been found in the County of Forty Mile. Examination Wildlife technician Dwayne Pipella measures a mother skunk (left) and then weighs the creature (right) as Alan Norris records data. Even baby skunks (below) can cauy rabies.