U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 44(4), 2008, pp. 1008–1013


Skunk-variant rabies is endemic in California (United States), and the development of oral vaccines and baits to vaccinate skunks is in progress. In 2003, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) began to quantify the impacts of skunk-variant rabies and to assess the feasibility of using oral rabies vaccination (ORV) as a containment measure. The CDPH rabies case data for skunks were spatially depicted and analyzed using a geographic information system. Statewide, rabid skunks (1992–2003) primarily occurred in seven physiographic regions: Central Coast, North Coast, North Sierra, Sacramento Valley, San Francisco Bay and Delta, San Joaquin Valley, and South Sierra. Detailed analysis of rabid skunks in San Luis Obispo (SLO) and Santa Barbara (SB) counties showed that skunk rabies was endemic in the coastal plain of SLO County between 1992 and 2000, but only became epizootic in SB County during 2002. Despite the widespread distribution of striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) throughout most of California, the skunk rabies variant has not been found in Los Angeles County since 1979. Results imply that future ORV campaigns for skunk-variant rabies in the Pacific Coastal Plain could deter spread from SLO into SB County, as well as deterring the reintroduction of skunkvariant rabies into southern California.